Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Wiley Facebook profile hurts debate

We at the University of Wisconsin pride ourselves on our dedication to and the protection of the "marketplace of ideas," to an open, honest exchange of ideas and beliefs. Whenever we discuss this principle, we all look to a certain plaque in Bascom Hall, which states, "Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found."

UW has a long history of encouraging its students, faculty and staff to interact and discuss, whether it be in the classroom, through student organizations, student government campaigns, open forums, protests and rallies. It is the tolerance and encouragement of these unending discussions that sets our university apart from many others, and is what makes the University of Wisconsin special.

However, lately it seems that for many, instead of embracing and forwarding the principle of open, honest debate and thoughtful, civilized exchange of ideas, it has simply become easier for groups and organizations to resort to petty, deeply personal attacks as a way to get their points across and achieve the outcomes they desire.

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As I've witnessed these types of attacks in the past as a member of student government, I've wondered how exactly it benefits the student body to forgo real discussion of campus issues in favor of ad hominem arguments? Furthermore, when did it become commonplace on this campus to simply resort to attacking the person instead of the issue you are debating, simply because they don't agree with you?

The Student Labor Action Coalition's most recent campaign against Chancellor John Wiley is a perfect example of the alarming trend of discussion and debate on this campus. When I opened my e-mail on Friday and saw I received a Facebook invitation from Chancellor Wiley, I was fairly amused and I figured I would click on the link and check out the profile. After actually looking at the content of the profile, my amusement quickly faded.

It is no secret that in the past year SLAC and Wiley have engaged in heated debate on issues related to reform of the UW's apparel policies and SLAC's reactions to the chancellor are frequently featured in the campus news. However, it seems Chancellor Wiley's decision to decline to endorse SLAC's United Students Against Sweatshops proposal until the administration can examine all its potential legal and procedural implications has triggered a negative, unwarranted response from SLAC.

Though the students behind the creation of Mr. Wiley's Facebook profile claim it was merely a way to for them to pressure the chancellor to respond to their proposal, I saw this action by SLAC as nothing more than a petty personal attack on Chancellor Wiley's character, rather than a true critique of the merits of his stance on the issue.

As I continued to read through the profile, which SLAC says are their musings on the university's apparel policies and a satirical take on Chancellor Wiley's personal stance on sweatshops, I wondered to myself "what could this possibly do to encourage rational discussion and real debate on the issue?"

In my opinion, SLAC's comments about Chancellor Wiley and his character did nothing to forward the debate in any constructive way and merely ensured that any further discussions on the issue will continue to be marked by negativity and animosity, especially in the eyes of the rest of the student body.

Though I don't dispute SLAC's right to challenge the administration's policies and participate in this type of speech, I couldn't help but wish they had chosen a more constructive method to bring the issue to the attention of the student body and persuade the chancellor to agree to their proposal.

At the end of their personal attack on Chancellor Wiley, SLAC members warned students that the profile was nothing more than "offensive joke" that students should "take with a grain of salt." However, what SLAC must realize that if they want their policies and proposals to really be taken seriously and garner widespread support among the general student body and the administration, is that they need to focus on constructive solutions and responses to the administration, rather than taking the easy way out and resorting to personal attacks.

As they go forward with this campaign, SLAC needs to understand that waging a campus-wide attack on Wiley's character does nothing to refute his stance on the UW's apparel policy and instead only serves to turn him and the rest of the campus off to thoughtful discussion of the issues. Until SLAC realizes this and begins promoting and participating in more rational public discourse and discussion, their arguments against campus apparel policies campaigns will continue to lack credibility and legitimacy.

Janell Wise ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and journalism.

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