First, the bad news: If you’re reading this in print, it probably means the blizzard currently looming over Madison didn’t produce enough snow to convince the university to shut down for the day. I’m sure if the death toll sneaks into the triple digits, they’ll rethink tomorrow. But there is a silver lining to this expansive nimbostratus cloud, and it’s that, as of tomorrow, The Badger Herald Opinion Page will take a break from its regularly scheduled diversity programming to return to its steady diet of health care rants and environmental articles.
While the week itself was good, and I like to think most people learned something, the ultimate irony behind the idea was that by flooding the page with stories on diversity, the ideas presented became far less diverse. After all, too much of anything can lead people to feel overwhelmed, and eventually turn everyone off to the argument as a whole.
But hey, if people want to write in and share their thoughts, it’s a newspaper’s job to attempt to give as many of them as possible a voice. It requires a much higher degree of commitment to plan out a letter to the editor and sign your name at the bottom than it does to simply spin off a few anonymous one liners.
It’s important to emphasize the “as many as possible” part, because the response was overwhelming. In one day alone I received more than 40 e-mail responses, far more than was expected over the course of the entire week. It was almost enough to make one reconsider the slow death of humanity. Maybe Bono was right; maybe we can all get along.
It’s doubtful. I’m not much of a sleuth, but I’ve watched more than my fair share of Scooby Doo VHS’s, and the maelstrom of replies started to lose their luster when one eager responder opened her piece with, “Here is my opinion piece/extra credit.”
Extra credit? First off, I doubt The Badger Herald has the authority to assign extra credit based on reader letters (and if we do, automatic “A” to the first kid who sends in a pro-Sith piece.) And more importantly, would a teacher really assign extra credit for something like this? It goes without saying that students will do just about anything for extra credit; in fact, if all homework was extra credit, the term “late assignment” wouldn’t exist. But offering free points to any student who can spew out 100 words on diversity sort of undermines the idea of having an honest discussion. It’s like when your parents give you money to buy your siblings Christmas presents; you’re not doing it because you love your sister — and let’s be honest, no one could love her — you’re doing it because you can waste the extra money they handed you on that new Korn CD.
While I can’t unequivocally prove someone at UW was offering extra credit for sending in letters, I do know around 25 of the submissions were also sent to an e-mail that appears to belong to a lecturer at the university. And that’s too bad. For too long, the university has taken the easy way out when it comes to diversity, offering talking points instead of concrete plans and standing behind outdated ideas despite lackluster results. This is another easy way out, and instead of having a genuine conversation, this may go down as simply another round of rhetoric propped up by good ol’ American grade inflation. I’m all for easy A’s, but not at the expense of interesting answers to important questions.
And now for the good news: In the three hours it took this column to tumble out of the writing womb, Wednesday’s classes have been canceled. Madison is covered in snow, and for once, its lily-white appearance will have nothing to do with admissions.
Sean Kittridge ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.