Don’t sensationalize; empathize

Ashley Kronebusch, Contributor

It’s in our nature to be drawn to sensationalism. We are curious animals at our core, and most of us love to get angry about things we’re passionate about, regardless of whether or not we actually admit it. Whenever an article exclaims, “You Won’t BELIEVE Number 7!,” the clicks start to roll in. Still, this culture of sensationalism and outrage is hardly without consequences.

In the past few months, our campus has been abuzz with controversy surrounding the Honors Program. It contained all the right elements to be sensationalized. The news spread like wildfire on our small campus, and the broader context was lost to quick talking points that were easy to get angry about. Of course, this situation raised greater questions about the university which people are still fighting to have addressed, but controversy has remained on Professor Adamo’s use of the N-word. While some lamented how academic freedom was under attack by so called “safe spaces,” the situation was reduced into a singular isolated incident that occurred on two fateful days in the Honors freshman class.

We are almost three months removed from that incident, but the use of the N-word in class has remained an important part of the conversation. Opinion pieces are still being written about it. For this reason, it’s important to go back to the root of this controversy and examine how it has been distorted and where misinformation has been spread.

First, it should be noted that the controversy around Professor Adamo is not an isolated incident. Professor Adamo has been accused of racial bias on multiple other occasions. Additionally, similar conversations about the use of the N-word have been led by Professor Adamo in past years, although none of them became as high profile as the one from this academic year. Finally, Professor Adamo’s account of the incident that he provided to the “The Echo” conflicts with those of many students who were there. Any changes to the Honors Program would be taking into account all of these incidents and accusations.

The story of the incident has become what it is now due in large part to the involvement of white, non-Honors students and faculty. While everyone has the right to an opinion on this controversy and has every right to share it, we should all be sure that we know the full story before spreading incomplete information. For white students like myself, this means listening and uplifting the voices of those most affected. People like the Honors Council student representatives have been working tirelessly to improve the Program and ensure that it is welcoming to all students, and it is hardly fair to drown out their voices with half-complete, sensationalist stories.

It should also be noted that the weight of fixing our university’s problems with inclusion and diversity can’t be only on students of color. As white students, we are complicit in the systems that have instituted these issues, and they can only be dismantled with our full cooperation and engagement.

We are far from making our campus a place where all people can exist without fear and express their ideas in a nature true to academic freedom. Until we can reach that place, and as we start to make strides towards inclusion, it is more important than ever to listen to those who have been affected by this incident and any in the future. Take care to know your facts before spreading misinformation. There is a place for sensationalism, but let’s make sure our campus isn’t it.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 2, 2019 issue.