Posted by April Sperry 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.