A Response to the “5 People” Situation

Posted by on October 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm

First and foremost, an apology is in order. To anyone who was offended or in any manner hurt by the comments about Asian students in the recruiting process, The Voice is deeply sorry. No readers should feel attacked or singled out in a negative manner by our content.

I’m April, one of the co-presidents and editors-in-chief of The Voice. Below is my own personal response to the recent issue surrounding the article 5 People You’ll See at Pre-Interview Receptions.

As was mentioned in the article’s note from the editors, the post in question is not and never was endorsed by the organization as a whole. The Voice staff did not collaborate to conceptualize or write this article. It was written by one contributor who has asked to remain anonymous. The article was sent to one staff member who published it and mistakenly attributed it to the staff as a whole. Do we all agree with the opinions and insinuations reflected in the article? No.

But that’s okay. The Voice believes in free speech and the right to personal opinions. I can confidently say that every member of The Voice thinks quite highly of our rights to freedom of thought, opinion, and expression. We shouldn’t all have to agree on the content of every article and post that is published. Things got messy when the opinions of one writer were implied to be those of every member of the staff – this should never have happened. By the time the author information was changed to “anonymous,” the damage was done and many readers already associated the comments with the opinions of the staff as a whole.

Yes, I do believe in the right to publish one’s thoughts anonymously but unfortunately, in this case the anonymity seems to only have fed the flames. Since the article was not initially published as being written by a single anonymous author, the offensive and controversial content had to go. Now, it would be wrong and unfair to put it back in the article. Call it censorship if you’d like, but it is not fair to hold an entire organization accountable for the opinions of one writer. As to the closing of the comment form, I don’t actually know why commenting was blocked. There is no use in hiding from the effects of the article, so the comments have been opened again.

It goes without saying that the paragraph regarding Asian students was simply untrue – every student who attends Harvard is here because he/she has done or is doing something unique and interesting; it’s not only insulting, but preposterous to say that even two people could be “indistinguishable” from one another.

The Voice is not always politically correct, but it never actively aims to hurt or insult. Snarky and pithy writing is amusing – offensive writing is not. It seems that this article was written with the intent of coming across as satirical. The tone of the article is not what I would call malicious – it sounds like a “joke” that turned out to be more hurtful than it was funny. I have to believe that this article was aimed to “poke fun” at the recruiting culture and just missed the mark. It’s easy to fall back on the idea that “someone will always be unhappy,” but hyperbole, humor, and social commentary can all happen without singling out a person or group of people. Talking pejoratively about Asian students in the recruiting process was both unnecessary and uncalled for.

Do I know who wrote the article? No, I don’t. But it doesn’t really matter who wrote it. What matters is that the article reflected an extremely controversial and offensive opinion that hurt and insulted people. While we have removed the most ostentatious of the offensive commentary, I believe it would be a mistake to remove the article altogether. Some readers will be angry that it stays up, but others would ridicule The Voice for removing it, claiming that we did not actually deal with the problem, that we just tried to get rid of it. In this case, leaving it up seems to be the lesser of two evils – trying to hide a problem only makes it bigger.

It’s there, it’s in the open, and there’s not a whole lot more we can do about it at this point. We’ve made mistakes and we’re doing our best to deal with the consequences. Call it a lesson well learned.


Category: Blog

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11 Responses

  1. Jeremy Lin says:

    Good job April.

  2. not enough says:

    April, your apology will not be taken seriously because you left in the line about “Asian ass-kissers.” You clearly don’t fully understand what you’re apologizing for–otherwise, you would have recognized and removed the entirety of the offensive stereotypes in the article.

    Also, free speech does not mean you need to publish every bigot’s article. Free speech means he/she can publish it on their own site.

  3. Logic says:

    To anyone with a sense of humor, the jokes in the article are actually pretty funny. Freedom of speech or not, however, whatever this website is has to realize that there are certain things you can’t write down and publish. Maybe asian jokes don’t seem as awkward to make as jokes about other races like african-americans. If you had published about the typical people at a basketball tryout and labeled the black kids as all very tall, wearing baggy shorts down to their ankles, and being incredibly loud, you probably would be sued by now. just not okay.

    jokes are funny, but anyone with a brain knows that publishing things in writing takes logical judgment. work on it guys.

  4. The Voice Staff says:

    @not enough: Thank you for letting us know that the “Asian ass-kisser” remark was still present. It was overlooked in the initial chaos of the situation and has been removed.

  5. Something's burning... says:

    April, you underestimate my intelligence and insult the wits of your average reader.

    It is a sign of gross incompetence that a single staff member under your direction had the power to publish controversial material without a second opinion. If you had truly trusted their judgement, I would’ve much preferred that you continued to support his/her editorial decision. However your backtracking demonstrates a general lack of conviction and fraction in the views and values of The Voice staff.

    Wait, I almost forgot, you do state that The Voice believes in freedom of thought, opinion, and expression. I think that’s very noble, but if you want to be the type of publication to publish all press, even overtly racist, bigoted opinions, make sure your staff can stand behind them. Racism is racism. Freedom of speech and freedom of press give you the right to say and publish what you want, but it does not remove you from the responsibility and repercussions of your decision.

    Also look me straight in the eye and tell me you don’t know who wrote that article. LOL, you liar.

  6. KSK says:

    Hello. I am Asian. For those of you who feel indignant and completely insulted/wronged because of the article, you all need to calm down. Not only was the writer making a joke (i.e. not trying to be offensive), but it is true in a lot of cases, and most of you Asians who are offended by it are probably the most guilty of obeying the stereotype portrayed in the article and are just too embarrassed to admit it. That is all.

  7. lauren says:

    Harvard Student Magazine Satirist Writes Racist Garbage, Doesn’t Understand Satire- sums it up.

  8. whyyyyyyyksk says:

    yes, ksk, the reason I was pissed about the article is because I’m a self-hating Asian who turns to allegations of racism to make me feel better about myself… You’ve pegged me. RACISM IS OVER GUYS JUST STOP WHINING

  9. "Anonymous" says:

    Pathetic apology. Why is one staff member allowed to publish something for the entire staff? The Voice needs to stop publishing things by “The Voice Staff” or “Anonymous.” Take responsibility for who wrote it. It is clear who wrote the story, considering there are two, maybe three, people affiliated with the Voice.

  10. Ben says:

    I think its creepy and dishonest to respond to people’s complaints by eliminating the original text. Disavow it if you wish, but at least allow people to actually see what you are disavowing.

  11. samira says:

    I’m all for freedom of speech, but racism (which is hurtful, hateful, and a host of other things) shouldn’t be published, period.

    I appreciate the apology, but maybe this is a sign of something institutional to be looked over: how was this article approved? was the content flagged for review at all? is this something that the blog should continue to publish, or consider before publishing in the future? do the staff and students understand why this article’s content was offensive, stereotypical and inaccurate?

    Racialicious has a great discussion about this occurrence (http://www.racialicious.com/2012/10/16/harvards-voice-puts-its-foot-in-its-mouth/#more-25721) which I think is worth reading about (that’s how I got here, anyways).

    I do appreciate your willingness to admit fault, I just wish there hadn’t been anything to admit fault about.

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