Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"A frightening six-week stretch" 

It was thought by most individuals on campus that quick, forceful action on the appearance of vandals on the campus would lead to eventually good press. What we get for our efforts instead is an AP reporter running a story that reaches as far as the L.A. Times titled "Racist Displays Persist at Minn. College." (The PioneerPress at least gives us a little more credit: "Swastikas, other displays undermine St. Cloud State's efforts.") The writer dredges up our past bout with an anti-Semitism lawsuit and wonders how a court-ordered settlement that includes a state-funded Jewish Studies program could not solve the perceived problems of the campus.

The writer, Patrick Condon, is an AP writer who usually covers the Minnesota Legislature and state politics, and his writing indicates a great unfamiliarity with the personalities of SCSU. He uncritically quotes our Buster Cooper as "retired faculty", who is once again peddling his letters discouraging minority students from attending here. All to assist Condon to perpetrate a stereotype of St. Cloud and this university:
That was before a frightening six-week stretch in November and December when vandals carved or scrawled more than a dozen swastikas and other racist images on campus walls, elevators and bathroom stalls.

The spate came as a setback to this central Minnesota university, which has spent more than $1 million, thousands of hours and untold energy in recent years trying to undo its reputation as hostile toward racial and ethnic minorities, an image so entrenched that some refer to the surrounding town as "White Cloud."
Frightened, mind you, by graffiti. So what did this "Voices of Resistance" (required!) get you, President Potter? And toward what end does Condon work when he first uses the "White Cloud" smear and then reminds us of the influx of Somali immigrants?

Nor does advertising help. We noted in 2002 that all our efforts to remedy the anti-Semitism case of the time only bought us bad press. I wonder if President Potter, or any other administrator, had read those posts or former President Saigo's letters and the lack of good press we received. Perhaps then this administration would know that appeasement never buys you any peace with the drive-by media.

Yesterday's St. Cloud Times included a column by local lawyer John Reep, which noted the folly of our campus' efforts and suggests a different course of action:

We should stop reporting minor vandalism as hate crime and reserve that designation for more serious events. If we don't report, we should be able to stay off the evening news in Minneapolis.

Too late for that.
We can't control other news outlets, but our local media should be more selective in covering these stories. The continued coverage of every minor event lends credibility to that event, and actually contributes to an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that nobody wants.
Really, nobody wants this? Once again I ask, cui bono?

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