In journalism, how you say it is as important as what you mean.

Two weeks ago, the Campus Times editorial board took a position in an attempt to advance the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. here at UR. We criticized UR administration for taking what we viewed as a haphazard approach to recognizing his birthday by making classes optional. The last minute decision hindered other groups from planning activities that day.

However, the wording of the editorial created some unintended consequences. After discussion with the greater campus community, we discovered that our intent had been misconstrued. Some felt that our editorial left the impression that minority students were complaining for the sake of complaining and being overly sensitive in their demands to celebrate the holiday.

Reading the editorial again several weeks later, I can see how some may have misinterpreted our words. Most importantly we were factually wrong on several points, which are corrected on page 2 of this week’s paper.

It is unfortunate that our words weren’t clear even to those who agreed with our intended message. Our message is something that I hope to clarify.

In no way was our editorial meant to disparage the hard work of those who have attempted to make UR more racially aware. We did not intend to underestimate the importance of bringing someone like Mary Francis Berry to campus. As the Chair of the Commission on Civil Rights, Berry will make an important contribution for celebrating the legacy of King.

After many years of pressure from students, faculty and staff, the administration is finally beginning to listen to their demands. UR is making a step in the right direction by creating the MLK Commemorative Address and promising to cancel classes that coincide with King’s birthday.

Both are things that administrators should have done long ago. A last-second e-mail from the administration is not how King’s legacy should be remembered. This situation must not be repeated next year.

The legacy of civil rights is so important that UR should even cancel classes on a different day in years where King’s birthday falls outside of the academic calendar year. This can be accomplished by marking the first Monday following Winter Break as a university holiday.

The school’s efforts cannot stop here. UR’s recognition of MLK Day is a small step toward achieving King’s dream of true equality in all forms. UR must make sure that the focus on civil rights and diversity is not limited to one day, but continues throughout the school year.

Hildebrandt can be reached at editor@campustimes.org.



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