Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Letters to the editor

Wenner’s Carter column outrageous

I was appalled at the “Moderately Amused” column in the Sept. 21 issue of The Eagle (“President Carter, please do America a big favor — sit down, shut up”). I will first address the issue of blatant disrespect towards one of our nation’s former leaders. A sophomore in college has the audacity to tell an 84 year-old, Nobel prize winner who has dedicated his life to serving humanity that he has “no license to speak mindlessly” as well as to “sit down and shut up,” as if our former president is a small child? Perhaps the author is not aware that the first amendment allows individuals to speak freely.

Furthermore, discourse is very much needed in the area of health care reform from all sides of the debate. Nobody should be silencing these voices, as they bring legitimate concerns to the table. Perhaps a former president, who has witnessed racism in the United States for the past 84 years, may possibly have something to contribute. He should not be silenced, disrespected and dismissed, as he undoubtedly has years more experience in the realm of public policy than his critic in this editorial.

I also question how “Carter simply was caught in the moment,” and that race is not an issue in the health care debate. President Barack Obama was horribly disrespected by Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina. Wilson shouted “You lie!” — interrupting Obama’s speech to the nation and falsely accusing our leader of being dishonest. Let’s be honest here. Weren’t we repeatedly lied to by the previous president?

Would a white representative of an all white district in South Carolina scream this to a white president and disrupt his speech? Chances are slim. Would a white president be ridiculed with joker-style face paint and incorrect comparisons to socialist and fascist leaders at a “tea party” rally? Most likely not. The author states: “Being labeled as a racist is never appreciated.” It makes me wonder how we are supposed to describe those who disrespect and ridicule the president because of his race. In fact, many consider this to be racist.

Alex Shaheen Senior, SPA and CAS

I have felt the need to write in after reading the article “President Carter, please do America a big favor — sit down, shut up.” I have some serious issues with the article and its silence regarding what President Carter might have been actually trying to hint at.

Joe Wenner says that President Carter was “speak[ing] mindlessly” when he brought up the race issue. But when has a president tried to put forth a reform bill and been faced with so much adversity? When has a president ever had a member of congress exclaim such a remark as “You lie!” during a presidential address? Never.

When President Obama addressed the public schools, people were up in arms. However, when President Bush Sr. did the same thing a decade ago, there was far less controversy.

Wenner said that “[Had] Carter not looked at the protests through a racial prism, Obama could have dedicated more time to actually pushing reform.” And maybe that’s true. But when an upstanding member of American society sees something blaringly wrong happening, is he supposed stay silent? How long can the race issue be pushed under the rug?

President Carter standing up and calling out protestations as being racist is something we should admire, because not everyone contains that courage within them. Being labeled a racist is never appreciated, but calling those tendencies to our attention is sometimes necessary.

Abigail Kizer Junior, CAS

The Eagle doesn't cover the SG enough

During the impeachment trial of former Comptroller Matt Handverger, The Eagle devoted a tremendous amount of its resources to covering the proceedings. There was live streaming video available on the newspaper's Web site, constant special reports, and even up to the minute updates on Twitter. However, when the conflict was resolved, The Eagle suddenly lost interest in Student Government.

Despite the fact that the SG controls a budget of more than half a million dollars, all directly out of the pockets of students, The Eagle rarely bothers to cover the meetings of the Undergraduate Senate, which take place every Sunday.

I will be the first to admit that the undertakings of the Senate are often misguided and pointless. However, on more than one occasion this year, issues that have a direct impact on the lives of students have been debated, and such debates have gone unmentioned by The Eagle.

For example, last Sunday the Senate extensively debated a five cent fee for all non-reusable bags that are sold on campus, as part of a bill designed to help protect the environment. The next day, The Eagle failed to mention this debate, and instead ran an editorial encouraging students to vote against a referendum that would make the comptroller and secretary appointed positions. While I agree with that position, I do not see why the newspaper would run such an editorial so far in advance of the election while ignoring the real issues of substance taken up by the SG.

Students really ought to care about what goes on in the SG because it is their money that is at stake. But first they are going to need to find a news organization to actually cover what goes on in the SG.

Michael Mayer Senator for the Class of 2010 Director of Recruitment for the AUSG Member of the School of Public Affairs

The choice between acting ethically and morally

An interesting parallel can be drawn between the titles of two recent articles involving AU. The first is discussion of “Nothing but the Truth,” a film presented in connection with the 2009-2010 AU Reel Journalism series; and second, “Hazardous Waste and History Mix on D.C. Tour,” a Sept. 21 article in The Washington Post's Metro section.

John Watson, School of Communication professor commented, “The movie [Nothing but the Truth] provides a great example of what happens when one has to choose between acting ethically and morally. Morals, according to Watson, are the guidelines that allow us to live in a cooperative society while ethics are specific to the roles of doctor, journalists, etc., that direct how we serve society. ‘Sometimes our ethics give us a pass on our morals.’"

Yamiche Alcindor, reporter for The Post, failed to verify allegations put forth by tour leader Kent Slowinski, that hundreds of chemical munitions “might” be buried beneath various AU campus buildings and houses in the Spring Valley neighborhood that surrounds the university campus.

Alcindor’s choice not to investigate assertions made by the self-proclaimed “thorn in the Army Corps side” and the movie’s actor/journalist refusing to disclose her source may be a professional ethics breech; and, at best, Alcindor’s report amounts to hearsay and scare tactics. It was more important to get an article in print than ensure the validity of its facts; and, perhaps what Professor Watson meant when he pointed to an example “of what happens when one has to choose between acting ethically and morally.” The moral guidelines that allow us to live in a cooperative society were ignored by the Metro reporter.

Earlier this summer, Mr. Slowinski joined Councilmember Mary Cheh and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton at hearings on the cleanup of WW I munitions from the Spring Valley Formerly Used Defense Site. The same kinds of erroneous statements found in Alcindor’s article formed the basis for much of the hearing testimony. Slowinski, like the journalist in the movie, does not reveal the source for statements like, “hundreds of chemical munitions are buried in a residential area.” This is meant to frighten residents and cast doubt on the work underway by the Army Corps of Engineers. In the end, the publication of these unfounded opinions in the Post is illustrative of what Watson meant by, “Sometimes our ethics give us a pass on our morals.”

Alma Hardy Gates Immediate Past Chair, Advisory Neighborhood Commission

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