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Observer editors address members

Michaels, Amanda | Thursday, February 19, 2004

Representatives from The Observer addressed the Senate at Wednesday’s meeting to clarify Viewpoint section policies and procedures that have recently been called into question.

Editor-in-chief Andrew Soukup, managing editor Scott Brodfuehrer and next year’s editor-in-chief Matt Lozar defended the decision to publish controversial Viewpoint letters, explaining that the section’s purpose is to promote debate on campus.

“One of The Observer’s responsibilities is to encourage discussions on viewpoint and perspective, and that’s what these letters do. However, I have to make it clear that the opinions of the writers do not reflect the opinions of The Observer staff,” Soukup said.

Addressing the issue of two letters in particular – one regarding homosexuality and the other, affirmative action – Soukup said that they met the standards of good writing and were neither hateful nor ignorant, and therefore there was no reason not to run them.

“We do routinely pull offensive letters off the page … But in the case of the affirmative action letter, many of the instances cited were based on what the author had actually seen. There is a difference between actual experience and broad generalizations,” Soukup said.

Soukup also said the apology requested by the Diversity Council was not necessary because other letters contradicting those in question were printed afterwards, and that it was a viewpoint that needed expression.

The meeting also questioned The Observer’s policy of endorsing a candidate in the student body presidential elections.

“Endorsement is commonplace. It allows the editorial staff to say if they think one candidate is better than the others. We also strive to make sure those on the editorial board do not report on the election,” Soukup said.

In response to a question about the Jan. 27 letter falsely accusing Bishop Daniel Jenky and Father Richard McBrien of covering up sexual abuse allegations, Soukup said The Observer is now in the process of reexamining its Viewpoint fact-checking policies because of the incident.

“We will be publishing in the Viewpoint section all the policies and procedures, even though many of them are already on the Web site, because we hope to clear all of this up,” Soukup said.

Brodfuehrer also encouraged students to contact The Observer directly if they had campus concerns.

“The Observer is an independent student newspaper, so we don’t have a staff sponsor like the Senate or other organizations,” Brodfuehrer said. “So we encourage students with concerns to contact The Observer staff directly.”

Adam Istvan and Karla Bell, student body president and vice-president elect did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.

In other Senate news:

u Howard senator Brin Anderson told senators to promote participation in Operation Rice Bowl, a drive to raise money for 40 countries and the local diocese sponsored by the Junior Class Council and the service and spiritual committees. Students will be provided with boxes in the shape of rice bowls, into which they can collect their extra change during the 40 days of Lent. After collection, 75 percent of the proceeds will go to a global cause, while 25 percent will go directly to the local diocese. Organizers will distribute the boxes on Monday and Tuesday in DeBartolo, O’Shaughnessy, LaFortune and north and south dining halls, as well as Ash Wednesday mass.

u A resolution requesting the creation of a campus life council task force to address social awareness issues was passed with only one dissenting vote. The task force would investigate the need for a class to create a common base of social understanding among students.

“We don’t want to make any demands-we just want to see if it’s feasible to get a three-credit course, or incorporate social awareness into freshman seminars,” said Badin senator Laura Feeney.

u Zahm senator Drew Sandstrum asked senators to encourage their constituents to write letters to soldiers overseas.

“Morale’s getting low-some of these guys are no older than 22, so they’d really appreciate support from here,” said Sandstrum.

U.S. soldier charged with trying to aid al-Qaida