The OC Blog Back Issues Our Mission Contact Us Masthead
Sudsy Wants You to Join the Oregon Commentator
 

Archive for the 'Ethics' Category

Journalists should be held accountable like you and me: A response to Kevin Sullivan

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Due to it’s timely matter, The Commentator has decided to publish this piece online. It will also appear in our physical publication later this month. 

On Monday, January 6th columnist Kevin Sullivan published an opinion column in the Daily Emerald that left a rather sour taste in my mouth. Of course, I’m not much of one to read the Emerald regularly (because I already know how to have fun in the snow in Bend and find an instruction manual for this not necessary), but when I happened upon Kevin’s most recent opinion piece “Athletes should be held accountable like you and me” I knew a response from The Commentator would be necessary. Of course, here at The Commentator, we couldn’t agree more with Kevin’s notion that athletes are a favored bunch throughout our national universities (and especially here at UO). Kevin, we commend your effort to put these athletes in their place and ensure that everyone is held accountable for their actions.

The problem with Kevin’s piece is his insight into the Jameis Winston rape case that was closed a little over a month ago in December. Writes Kevin:

         Imagine a case of sexual assault. A 9-11 call surfaces after a month of the case being in the mainstream news but a year after the survivor first reported the rape. The survivor has already identified the man who had raped her and DNA evidence had proven that he indeed had sex with her.
        This guy was obviously convicted right?
        Wrong.

Now hold it right there, Kevin. Why should this guy obviously be convicted? Based on the story you just told, I reached the conclusion that the man should obviously not be convicted! We’re supposed to think that DNA evidence proving that two people had sex is evidence of rape? Because there’s no such thing as consensual sex, right Kev?

I’m not here to argue against the innocence of Winston [...] I’m here to state the truth writes Kevin right after conclusively referring to Winston as “the man who had raped her“. Welcome to America, where all are guilty until proven innocent… good thing our justice system doesn’t operate on the same rules that Kevin does.  All I’m saying is that we have words like “alleged” so that journalists can refer to the accused without definitively calling them, as Kevin does,  ”the assailant“. Throughout his piece, it is clear that Kevin has made his mind up about the Winston case. He repeatedly refers to the accuser as “the victim” and contextualizes the story in a way that makes it obvious to us all that the tenant of “innocent until proven guilty” is only applicable until an Ol’ Dirty Emerald columnist decides that it is not. And all this in a piece where Kevin calls out the media for not properly framing a story and for “poorly reported stories“. Kev, we’re all beginning to drown in the irony here.

Of course, I cannot disagree with your main point that the accuser received a lot of hate from FSU fans and the public alike. Yes, that happened, but it does not determine whether or not Winston is guilty or not. Let’s be honest this rape allegation will always be tied in with Jameis Winston’s name as well. The truth is, there just was not enough evidence to convict Jameis of anything. This doesn’t mean that he isn’t a rapist, but (without concrete evidence) we will never know what happened.  Of course, since Kevin is already sure of his verdict, we invite him to pour through the case evidence that the state attorney released.

The point is, while there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with our judicial system, it’s ethically wrong to debase the innocent until proven guilty that our justice system is based on. Kevin, until you’re ready to present concrete evidence that Jameis Winston is a rapist, we cannot refer to him as one. And when you do have that concrete evidence, we highly encourage you to fax it over to the Tampa police so the case can be reopened.

It was not only Kevin’s absurdly definitive reporting of Winston’s guilt that infuriates us here at The Commentator. It seems like it would also be relevant to point out here that the opinion piece misreported a couple things. Writes Kevin:

[O]ne insightful anchor on “Good Morning America” put it on Dec. 12, “I just want this one to go away.”
Let me repeat that.
One of the anchors from ‘Good Morning America,” the leading morning show in America, said that he wanted the story of the Winston case to “go away.”

Good thing you repeated this twice, Kevin. Does that mean we can charge you with two accounts of false reporting? Take a look at the video that is being referenced, and I think it will be as clear to you as it was to me- Stephanopoulos says “They just want this one to go away.” Of course, by changing this one critical word you completely change the intention of Stephanopoulos’ comment. I see what you did there. Clever, Kev. Very clever.

Of course, why stop here? Let’s also get a source for those statistics you’re referencing. Writes Kevin: “the percentage of women who falsely report rape is very low and not any higher than any other false reporting of other crimes” I’ll forget about how terribly phrased this sentence is for a minute, so I can present some statistics:

Since 1996 “unfounded” rape accusations are reported by the FBI to be around 8%, while other index crimes have been around 2%.  Of course, “unfounded” does not necessarily mean “false allegation”. It is almost impossible to discover the true percentage of false rape accusations, but many estimate that they are higher than index crimes. Of course, I’m guessing Kevin found his statistics in ”Against Our Will”. Nice. Very reliable source, Kev.

“Football should not trump [...] our judicial system” writes Kevin in conclusion to his article. Let us remind you, Kev, that bad journalism should not trump our judicial system either.

Alright, kiddos, that’s all we’ve got until we hear back from Kevin. In the meantime let’s all remember that everyone accused of rape is guilty, especially if there isn’t enough evidence to prove it.

Thomas Tullis

ASUO President is Again ASUO President

Monday, February 18th, 2013

On February 15th the UO Con Court effectively said “Never mind,” responding affirmatively to a motion to reinstate ASUO President Laura Hinman.

The Con Court decided that Hinman’s nonfulfillment of duties, which is the reason she was pulled from office in late January, had been remedied by ASUO Vice President Nick McCain. The petition for reinstatement cited Hinman’s appointing of Pat Chaney to the elections board, followed by Chaney’s recommendations of four other applicants and finally by McCain appointing those recommendations on February 7th, during Hinman’s forced absence.

The completion of an elections board resolved the initial dispute brought to the Con Court, which was a grievance filed against Hinman by Joanna Stewart. The full Con Court opinion can be read here.

And they all lived happily ever after, despite the excruciating budget hearings and God knows what else.

All I want for Christmas are Chip Kelly’s balls

Monday, December 24th, 2012

An excellent piece about how Chip Kelly’s balls piss off boosters. Merry Christmas everyone! Also Kwanzaa. And don’t forget Winter Solst– fuck it, pass the ham.

More Like EMU ReferenDUMB, Am I Right?

Friday, December 21st, 2012

It’s 10pm on a Friday night, which might be our last night alive, but here we are again discussing the debacle that is the EMU Referendum .

Student and USSA member Lucero Castaneda (the n having one of those squigglys above it that WordPress is reluctant to allow) has filed a grievance against ASUO president Laura Hinman, claiming a biased approach to the EMU referendum. For those of you who haven’t followed the sketchiness, this post from before the EMU referendum vote and this post from after can help catch you up.

The rule Castaneda accuses Hinman of violating is as follows:

The ASUO Elections shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the best interests of the student body. The elections shall be conducted in a fair, orderly and impartial manner, and the educational atmosphere of the University shall not be compromised, by any member of the ASUO involved in the electoral process.

Castaneda wrote; “The EMU Renovation Task Force…engaged in a heavy-handed pro-yes campaign on the EMU referendum. This is clearly indicated in the memo between the Task Force and the political consultant firm they hired, RBI strategies.” Click here for the memo.

She also says that Hinman’s membership in the EMU Renovation Task Force establishes her unfair inclination on the issue. The example provided is the ASUO’s education campaign, which Castenado says contains “slanted language and pro-renovation opinions presented as fact.” Students wishing to learn about the issue were directed to this website; judge for yourself.

Castaneda then cites Hinman’s selective approach to student involvement:

Campus outreach during the week of the referendum disproportionately targeted Greek life. No student union or other student group with space in the EMU was notified of the referendum, yet several fraternities and sororities were visited by members of the ASUO Executive and encouraged to vote in the referendum. Why would [Hinman] go out of her way to travel to the homes of students belonging to fraternities and sororities to encourage them to vote, but not attempt to contact students already present in the EMU? The reason is that [Hinman] perceived Greek students to be more likely to vote yes, and students belonging to groups within the EMU more likely to vote no.

Castaneda suggests that, because the methods to achieve a “yes” vote on the EMU renovation appear to be biased, a second vote is in order. “The most logical remedy is to invalidate the results of this referendum, and hold a second referendum on the same question, this time under the jurisdiction of a duly appointed elections board.”

Newtown, CT Shooting

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Our hearts go out to the grieving families in Newtown, Connecticut, in the aftermath of an elementary school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults. Shooter Adam Lanza killed himself soon after police were called.

This atrocity is unignorable. The Commentator is working on an article that addresses the gun control debate from all possible angles and from all possible perspectives. For now, our love and condolences are with Newtown.

The Address for donations is: SandyHook School Support Fund c/o Newtown Savings Bank 39 Main St Newtown, CT 06470

The address for the school is where cards, letters, teddy bears anything for the siblings can be sent for the families: Sandy Hook Elementary School 12 Dickinson Drive, Sandy Hook, CT 06482

Thanks to Swamp Fox Green for the donation information (the full post can be read here).

“Perceived” Rights and Smoker Ethics

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

After getting off of work in the dungeon that is the Knight Library basement, I stepped into the afternoon rain. I pulled a pre-rolled cigarette from my pocket (Bugler brand – mangy, disgusting Bugler) and lit it. Standing off to the side so as not to spread smoke, an elderly woman shot me the evil eye before stopping in front of me: “There’s no smoking on campus. Go smoke across the street.”

I stared at her until she left.

This kind of situation has become all-too-common since the Healthy Campus Initiative, in partnership with the UO Health Center and the administration (with a special guest funding appearance from the ASUO), implemented a campus-wide smoking ban at the beginning of the Fall. The idea of a smoking ban isn’t anything new; the Smoke Free Campus Task Force (SFTF) issued a report in 2008 that sought to

tak[e] up the matter of campus smoking policy with the understanding that the issue is fueled by strong personal convictions for perceived personal rights, both the right to be free from the effects of secondhand smoke and the right to choose to smoke cigarettes (STFT Report, emphasis mine)

The rest of the report either references student support from polls drawn from other universities, or flat-out neglects student responses in order to reference various studies, policies, and polls from other universities. Under “Synthesis of Survey Findings of UO Faculty, Staff, and Students,” the report states that

Many survey respondents are ready to support the move to a smoke free campus… [and] also were confident that this could be accomplished with designated smoking areas… (Ibid.)

Oh, hey, there’s a reasonable point. But no! The STFT simply cannot concede, because “enforcement becomes very difficult and compliance suffers as a result.” You don’t say.

No matter what the administration does, what programs it implements, what funding it pulls or pushes, students will push against it. Lord knows the Commentator will. The Healthy Campus Initiative tried to remedy this student disconnect with the “STFU” posters, a internet-conscious campaign that seemed to confuse people more than encourage quitting (check out this post about the issue from our very own Editor Emeritus Sophia Lawhead).

Another argument is that it unfairly targets lower-income UO workers. Even those filthy hipsters at the OV agree with us on this point. Making workers go off campus for a 15 minute smoke break is not only inconsiderate, but damaging to already-strained labor relationships.

“All I wanted was a non-fat, cream-jizzed latte with peasant tears in it!”

So why bring up this almost-5-year-old report, you may ask? Because Frances Dyke and company never really cared about what students thought. The UO has become a brand, and it needs to sell itself in order to keep flagging state funding and private donor contributions steady. The publicity surrounding the ban has relentlessly focused on the “progressive” aspects of the program without attending to the opinions of students or faculty – and if so, only through narrow data samples used to prop up their point.

But the effects of secondhand smoke are serious. I completely understand the goal behind the smoking ban. Cigarette butt litter continues to be a problem, and has only been exacerbated by the ban — take a look at the 13th and Kincaid entrance to campus if you don’t believe me. Families with young children and people with respiratory problems are also rightfully concerned.

The only way to fight this ban, then, is to implement a personal smoker code of ethics to demonstrate smoker commitment to a healthy campus and personal freedoms. Here’s mine:

  1. Always smoke away from buildings and large groups of people, and/or areas of great traffic.
  2. Stop inhaling and pull the cigarette as far away from passing families with children.
  3. If someone asks you to smoke off campus, politely decline or simply don’t say anything at all. You’ll be finished if and when they call DPS.
  4. Put butts out and make sure they’re extinguished before throwing them away.
  5. Throw butts in the trash.
  6. If an officer asks you to put your cigarette out, assess the situation. Fines suck, but so do the deprivation of “perceived personal rights.”
  7. Overall, recognize that your activity is looked down upon. Take pride in this.

It’s not perfect, but it works for me. The Commentator will continue to fight this arbitrary ban with articles, letters, appeals, and upcoming events like Tobacco Appreciation Day. But the ball is in smokers’ courts. We at the Commentator will do our best to point out the massive cavalcades of bullshit directed at students who make the choice to smoke. This smoking ban is just another attempt at nannying the student populace; the administration never does anything without direct benefit to them, and they’ve fucked smokers to bolster their public image under the pretense of “knowing what’s best.”

The whole campaign feels like yet another pat on the head, another assumption about our intelligence, actions, and responsibilities. But we’re not kids anymore. We’re adults, students, workers, and yes, smokers. So smoke ’em if ya got ’em. It’s going to be a long, long battle.