Letters to Editor, Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Dorm Incident

The article written by Jim Sober in Friday’s Freep merits some criticism in terms of content and factuality. It is unfortunate that Mr. Sober, while starting off the article by referring to the incident as “alleged,” drops this impartial tone in the rest of the article. Indeed, in the very next paragraph, Mr. Sober asserts as obvious fact that “…Stone was clubbed and pushed by security guard Brady, according to eyewitness reports.” I would like to ask Mr. Sober to evaluate the objectivity of the eyewitnesses he quotes. I would also like to ask Mr. Sober that if he were intent on pursuing an objective approach, why no eyewitnesses with an entirely different perspective of the incident were interviewed? Being an R.A. at West Campus, I have heard many stories, and as can be predicted, each story differed somewhat. I take issue with Mr. Sober’s professionality here in that clearly, only one side of the story was reported by interviews with impartial eyewitnesses.

Further in the article, Mr. Sober sees fit to include reference to a leaflet distributed by several W.C. residents, but not published or written by the Black students at W.C., as the article explicitly states. Mr. Sober considers it so authoritative that he refers to it as a “report.” Now Mr. Sober, let us be clear in how we distinguish informative reports from mere propaganda. I am not denying that there may have been some statements attributed to “eyewitnesses” contained in the leaflet, but these are out of the context of the situation and can only be considered misleading at best and inflammatory at worst. The leaflet was hastily prepared by the organization SDS—never known, by the way, for its reportorial accuracy—to take advantage of the fact that John Burkett had been scheduled for an on-the-carpet meeting at West Campus on Thursday night. It was never intended to inform the students factually about the incident. The intent of the leaflet was to raise the emotional level of the dorm to a point where the students would come out and confront the “administration figure.” I should point out that while Dr. Burkett did draw a crowd, there were only one or two Blacks in attendance, and that those whites who sought only to confront Dr. Burkett were SDS members. But this is beside the point.

We must realize that the bulk of Mr. Sober’s article quotes this leaflet. The reader of the Freep assumes these to be the facts of the case. Whether they are or not is not for Mr. Sober to arbitrarily decide for us. He has sacrificed a fundamental journalistic principle. Mr. Sober has let his personal biases get the best of him.

I admonish Mr. Sober in the future to approach such controversial incidents with a higher degree of journalistic integrity, and caution him not to presume upon the emotions of the student body by writing in a manner that incites and vilifies. Rather, Mr. Sober, enlighten us and inform us with the kind of accurate, responsible reporting we should expect from the staff of a campus newspaper.

Michael T. Mishkin

Resident Assistant

West Campus

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