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LETTER: Benton mural coverage lacking



Editor's note: As a student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student greatly appreciates feedback from readers, and the IDS want to be fully transparent. The IDS stands by its reporting of the panel regarding the Benton murals. Upon receiving this letter, I read through the story again and determined that the first half is, indeed, giving voice to those against taking down the mural. I also spoke to multiple attendees of the event, and though it was an intellectual forum, they said argument was also an accurate way to describe the events. The story has been updated to reflect PACE's sponsorship of the event, as it does give readers necessary context for the event itself.

As a history student, l've learned that sometimes people see things different ways. It is a disservice to our readers to not discuss the most important points of an event. The mission of the IDS has been and always will be to accurately report campus and regional news, and I believe all sides were given a voice in the coverage of this panel. – Jamie Zega, editor-in-chief

Dear Editor,

We are writing in response to the IDS story on the panel discussion that the Political and Civic Engagement program sponsored last Thursday on the Benton murals. We appreciate that the IDS covered the event and included some important information about the Benton murals in Woodburn 100.

But we also want to bring your readers’ attention to some elements that were missing and misrepresented in your coverage. 

First, there are some elementary facts that were absent from the article.  These include PACE’s sponsorship of the event, as well as the identity of half of the six panelists: Eric Sandweiss, professor of history; Devin Brown, president of the Black Law Students Association at the IU Maurer School of Law; PACE Senior Lecturer Carl Weinberg; and Alex Lichtenstein, professor of history, who moderated the panel. 

Second, the article failed to give any voice to those (Sandweiss and Weinberg) who spoke against taking down the mural. That does a disservice to your readers, who are left with the impression that this was a one-sided conversation and that no arguments were presented from the other side. 

Third, the article mischaracterized the tone of the meeting — as mainly sparking “arguments.” The comments from former IU Vice President Charlie Nelms were powerful and quotable. And the exchange between Nelms and Professor Kevin Brown did get personal. This can happen when you’re talking about issues that really matter.  

But the overall tenor of the two-hour event was remarkably civil. There were impassioned, even tearful, comments from audience members. But the tone was respectful and the content of the conversation was substantive and thought provoking. Even though a number of the panelists disagreed with each other, we had a meeting of the minds, and we all learned something.  

This was heated, civil debate: precisely what we aim for in the world of higher education.  

Unfortunately, the article tended to convey, instead, that the event was like an episode of the "Jerry Springer Show." 

In light of the provost’s email last Friday announcing that Woodburn 100 will be decommissioned as a classroom and repurposed; and as we move forward into a new phase of discussion, we encourage the IDS to do its best to accurately report what all sides have to say. 

Sandra Shapshay, Director, Political and Civic Engagement (PACE) Program, and Associate Professor of Philosophy

Carl R. Weinberg, Senior Lecturer (PACE) and Adjunct Associate Professor of History

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