Letters: HLS principles, shutting up, war coverage and supporting the troops

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HLS should live up to own principles

Just before spring break, we read in the Adviser that a student intentionally undercounted words to circumvent the length limit on an exam. The Administrative Board let the unnamed student off with a warning and warned others that future incidents “may well be dealt with more severely.”

The Ad Board no doubt intended this announcement to deter future misconduct. But the board’s failure to impose a harsher penalty, and its weak handling of recent plagiarism episodes (see “Closed Doors, Closed Mouths in Plagiarism Incidents” in the Feb. 27 RECORD), send a different message: A breach of academic integrity will be swiftly hidden away in a way that minimizes lasting consequences for the violator and the school.

It would be easy to blame the Ad Board for taking a too-lenient approach, but the truth is that the Ad Board is just one component of a flawed system. Students and faculty deserve a comprehensive system that addresses academic dishonesty issues openly and resolutely, and that affirmatively promotes integrity rather than just punishing violations ad hoc. If recent events are any indication, the law school’s current scheme falls short on both counts.

The next dean should bring academic integrity to the forefront of the law school’s agenda. She should conduct a study of student and faculty attitudes and practices with respect to academic honesty and work to promote frank discussion of academic integrity issues. The dean should then move to overhaul the school’s policies, practices and institutions. The school’s integrity system should set clear standards of conduct — put the law school community on notice of those standards, provide means for vigorous, consistent enforcement and impose meaningful penalties — not wrist slaps — on violators. Finally, the law school should promote accountability by publishing data on the number and type of suspected integrity violations reported, investigated and prosecuted each semester.

HLS espouses a commitment to ethics and integrity — but so did Enron and Arthur Andersen. If the law school’s commitment is anything more than rhetoric, it should live up to its stated principles in its own affairs.

— Jim Luh, 1L


HLS Veterans say thanks

On behalf of the HLS Veterans Association, I would like to thank everyone who participated in our “support the troops” yellow ribbon drive. Special thanks to those who donated to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (T.A.P.S.). Your contributions to T.A.P.S. amounted to over $217. These funds are being used to provide emergency assistance to families of American military personnel killed in Iraq. We are grateful for your support.

— Jim Sytsma

Treasurer, HLS Veterans Association


RECORD shouldn’t tell people to shut up

Didn’t your momma ever teach you that you shouldn’t tell people to “shut up?”

I admit, I too have used the phrase a couple of times in my life, but it was usually when I didn’t have anything else to say in response. Fortunately, you do go on to provide some support for your proposition in your editorial on March 13th, but I’d like to take issue with two things. First, not one conservative student at the Town Hall Meeting with President Summers mentioned anything about being silenced, which is hardly the “several students complained about a purported silencing of conservatives on campus” of which you wrote. Secondly, implicit in the argument is that the “booing and hissing” of conservative statements is inevitable and that the burden is on conservative students to “develop thicker skins.” I agree that we should all develop thicker skins. However, I have a problem with the booing and hissing of any position for several reasons. First, it’s rude. Second, it’s not professional. Third, it’s a poor substitute for argument, similar to phrases like “shut up.” I agree that “no one here is incapable of forming a sentence or making an argument.” Thus, I can only think of three reasons why a student would boo or hiss when a statement is made in class: One, there is no response. Two, they are too intellectually lazy to form one, or three, they hope to send a strong message to any of their own who may be temporarily swayed by the previous statement that the statement was not acceptable and that they had better get back into the ideological fold. Alright, alright, I’ll be fair. Or four, (probably most likely) they consider the previous statement to be unconscionable and could not restrain this visceral display of disapproval. That may be true. But if that is the case, then not only should we all “develop thicker skins,” but should also develop more discipline and self-restraint.

— Jordan Abshire, 2L


 War coverage hurts U.S. cause

I was once a supporter of the war in Iraq because of my loyalty to Israel. Ironically, watching Israeli television news made me realize that the tragic implications of this war on American democracy are a price too high to pay for anything, no matter what the benefits may be. As a dual American-Israeli citizen, I was until recently marginally in favor of the war in Iraq, despite my disdain for Bush and his personal motivations, simply because Saddam Hussein has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. However, watching uncensored information about the war on Israeli news shocked me beyond words. I was unaware of the lies that we in this country are being fed by our media. On March 28, a daily Israeli news show was interrupted by the highly emotional testimony of Israel’s leading reporter, Dan Smama. He had just returned from having been held hostage in Iraq for 48 hours by American troops, together with a Portuguese reporter, suspected of being “spies” because they did not coordinate with the U.S. army in advance, as did other reporters who attempted to interview American forces. Smama spoke in a cracking voice of the abuse and humiliations the reporters underwent, including being denied food (in violation of the Geneva Convention). He testified about shocking human rights breaches by American troops against Iraqi prisoners. He described everything that reporters who “coordinated” with American troops left out of their stories. Throughout Israeli media, there is open discussion of the reality of this war: the civilian deaths, the abuse by soldiers, the ridiculous cultural insensitivity and the unpreparedness of the American troops. Israel, as one of Hussein’s main targets, potentially has as much to gain by Hussein’s overthrow as does the U.S., if not more. The majority of Israeli public opinion favors this war. Yet the Israeli media, being free and uncensored, attempts to cover both the good and the bad side of war, as the media should. The U.S. Army apparently has a problem with this.

I feel compelled to tell this story because it shocks me as an American. I am outraged at the American army’s expectation that all reporters “buddy up” with a good-looking brigade of its own choosing. I am outraged that the media accepts this as accurate war reporting. Perhaps we should have all reporters covering the next American election “coordinate” with the incumbent candidate’s PR team, and only broadcast the stories that party feeds them. Or maybe American news networks should pick only one side in other global conflicts as well — the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, for example — and adopt that party’s viewpoint solely and completely, without mentio
n of the other side. When Fox uses “we” in referring to the American army, should the “real we,” the viewers, not instantly disregard the information it broadcasts, as the product of a biased news source?

This “live televised war” puts on a front of being democracy’s penultimate: full transparency to the point of allowing every citizen to watch American troops in action. Yet the reality of the army’s systematic and organized “adoption” of reporters, and vice versa, is troublesome at best and completely corrupt reporting and governing at worst. Where is the one dissenter in American mass media? Where is the voice of opposition aired with serious consideration? Where is the reporter broadcasting from Iraqi homes? In the Gulf War, the first “televised war,” American news media treated the American public as consumers needing to be fed with patriotic propaganda. Just like commercials feed the American consumer, the news media aims to numb us into patriotic sentiment, to the extent of adopting “us versus them, good-guy/bad guy” language, rather than reporting neutrally and letting the intelligent viewer decide what to believe. This approach is not only demeaning and insulting to our intelligence. It is destructive to our democracy, since history has taught the dangers of overzealous patriotic propaganda. If our government and/or our media feels the need to hide the other side of the war from its public, then the “live war” is in fact as much of an oxymoron as it sounds, and the proof of corruption is in the pudding.

— Hephzibah Levine, 1L



“Support” means different things

I am told to “Support our Troops” now that war has begun. I say, it all depends on what you mean. I want our troops out of harm’s way. I support them in their right to choose the military, their feeling that they are doing their patriotic duty , and in their thinking that they are doing good. But I don’t support them for what, at the President’s orders, they are doing in Iraq. I oppose their hostile entering of a country without international support. I don’t support them in their killing of Iraqis, both soldiers and innocent civilians. And I oppose them in their inevitable destroying of at least some infrastructure and resources that will lead to miseries in the future. Please don’t look at me strangely if I can’t unqualifiedly agree that “But of course, all citizens can and should support our troops.”

— Neil Wollman

Senior Fellow, Peace Studies Institute, Manchester College

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