May 15, 2009

Retraction of "A Springtime Strip"

Dear readers,

You may have noticed the considerable response, both on campus and on the MAROON Web site, to “A Springtime Strip,” an op-ed by Luke Dumas that was published in the Viewpoints section of the MAROON’s last issue. The Feminist Majority, an RSO, placed stickers reading “This insults women” on copies of the MAROON in many campus buildings; online, the article has received over 50 comments, most of which are negative.

Opinions expressed in Viewpoints inevitably spark controversy from time to time; never offending anyone is not a realistic or intelligent goal for a newspaper. But “A Springtime Strip” was not merely controversial. While it made claims that were intended as satirical, the article read as discriminatory toward female students. The MAROON retracts these remarks, and the article has been amended online at chicagomaroon.com to reflect this action.

The tastelessness of “A Springtime Strip” was brought to my attention before its publication, near the end of the MAROON’s production process. I made major changes to the article, but even after that, I knew it remained deeply problematic. I saw three choices: I could allow the piece to be published as it was, spend even more time making changes, or remove the article and replace it with more or less blank space. None of these were ideal options. But I made the worst possible choice.

Viewpoints’ purpose is to be a forum for our campus. To that end, a basic standard of decency and respect for our readers is not a fine point—it is an essential. The Viewpoints section aims to engage its readers with challenging opinions, and for that to work, readers must afford the section a basic level of trust. Allowing remarks that discriminate against readers based on arbitrary categories including gender, race, and orientation is a violation of that trust. In allowing “A Springtime Strip” to be published, I did not show MAROON readers the respect they deserve. For that, I am truly sorry.

It seems that few people can agree on an identical standard of decency. Readers have had a range of responses to the article, from outrage, to laughter, to indifference. As editor-in-chief, however, it is my responsibility to decide when content in this paper crosses the line. And I feel that “A Springtime Strip” did just that. The retracted parts of the article describe women using excessively harsh language and a contemptuous tone. Prior to the retraction, the article’s imagery and exaggeration implied a resemblance between female students and prostitutes. I firmly believe these remarks read as discriminatory; yet I allowed the article to be published intact. This was an instance of gross editorial oversight on my part. I will not let it happen again.

Thank you for giving me the chance to explain my actions.


Supriya Sinhababu