On Feb. 17, 2022, The Miscellany News released an article titled “Jeh Charles Johnson withdraws as 2022 commencement speaker” on both its website and the fourth print issue of its 157th volume. This article intended to report on student feelings about Johnson’s nomination and subsequent withdrawal. Since then, the online version of the article has been pulled from The Miscellany News website—a decision made by the Executive Board in concert with the News Editors. We would like to take this space to discuss the reasoning behind our decision and recognize the feelings of disappointment and hurt surrounding the article’s publication.
We would like to use this statement to both emphasize our values of diversity and inclusion, and delve deeply into our editorial process and the resulting article in question, especially since we understand that many people in the Vassar community are unaware of the article’s removal. We had originally planned to publish an article focused primarily on student responses to Johnson’s nomination, particularly the backlash that his selection received. However, on Feb. 14, the day we began editing and laying out our fourth issue, we received Johnson’s withdrawal statement from the College. In order to keep our reporting up to date, we drastically changed the article from focusing solely on student responses to the announcement of him as speaker into an article describing his withdrawal and the reaction from the student body. In this article, we attempted to include a variety of quotes from students describing why there was protest to the announcement of him as speaker in the first place, and the students’ reaction to his withdrawal.
In prioritizing urgency over thoroughness, we made misguided and insensitive oversights with whom we were representing in the article and failed to provide in-depth reporting of the issue at large. The majority of our quotations came from white students and therefore we reduced the positions of students of color to a singular, tokenized perspective. After this was brought to our attention, the paper decided to remove the article online in an attempt to prevent further harm among the communities we misrepresented.
However, misrepresentation is not the only issue in the article—to state so would be a grievous oversimplification. Our article exemplifies many of the institutional flaws and structural problems within our paper. Journalism, including college journalism, has historically been a white-centric, often elitist field, and The Miscellany News is not immune to the consequences of these structures. The publication of the article and its subsequent removal reminds us of the systemic issues our members are implicated in, as well as the privilege and lack of diversity that we have allowed to persist for generations across our boards. None of our explanations for the failures of an individual article can mitigate the problem of past coverage on issues related to people of color, nor address in full depth the issue of representation within our board.
This does not mean that change is improbable, but rather that consistent action must be taken in order to address the systemic problems within The Miscellany News. The changes we aim to make cannot immediately fix the issues that have dominated college journalism, but we will work to take both immediate and gradual steps. One of these steps includes our current process of making a review board that aims to examine quotes and sources to ensure both their veracity and the integrity of their representation within the article. The review board will be separate from the editorial board, and its members will view articles on a rotational basis.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge the delay in releasing this editorial; we wanted to address the issue with the diligence that it demands, rather than release a swift but reactionary apology that does not cover the gravity or complexity of the situation. As a college newspaper, we want to emphasize that though we are committed to covering news of the Vassar community and campus, our main priority will always be to report all student voices to the best of our ability. We encourage students, including The Miscellany News Editorial Board, to partake in the dialogue regarding the issues at hand, as well as any future articles, topics or disputes on campus. We continue to push towards our goal of providing all of the most important news on campus while uplifting a diverse array of voices.
The Miscellany News