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Monday, July 26, 2021

Editorial: Column shouldn’t have been published

Twelve members of The California Aggie staff attended a “Beyond the Binary” event on Jan. 26 discussing Tiffany Lew’s Jan. 22 column, “Rise of the Girly Men.”

It was a valuable experience for those of us who were present.

From an early age we are taught to recognize and reject racial and religious prejudice and stereotyping. Hate speech, however, can be based on more than just race or religion. The reaction to this column taught us prejudice and stereotyping based on things such as gender identity, sexual orientation and gender presentation are just as harmful and unacceptable as prejudice and stereotyping based on race and religion.

Aggie columnists are free to express any opinion they want, except when those opinions target specific underrepresented groups with negative stereotypes and prejudiced statements. The Aggie failed to adhere to this policy with Lew’s column, and for that we apologize.

The column was never intended to be an attack on any group, but regardless of intent, it was an attack. While many of The Aggie’s critics chose to attack us in response, the Beyond the Binary event on Jan. 26 was different, in that it sought to educate and inform rather than vilify.

As a result of what we’ve learned as editors in the past week, The Aggie will take several new steps.

First, all editors and columnists will attend an awareness-training program developed with the help of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center. This program will focus on identifying hate speech in news and opinion writing.

Several editors will also attend a Crafternoons session at the LGBTRC on an upcoming Friday afternoon to share information on how to submit guest opinions and press releases to The Aggie. We encourage anyone, especially those who feel underrepresented in The Aggie, to join us. The event date will be announced shortly.

Perhaps the biggest change we have planned is the reintroduction of the opinion editor position beginning this summer. The position was eliminated in 2005 due to budget cuts, leaving the editor in chief to handle the opinion section on top of their many more business-related responsibilities. With the opinion editor focused on recruiting, training and editing with columnists, the quality of opinion writing in The Aggie will improve dramatically.

The Aggie’s decision to retract the column has sparked much debate. Some readers said our actions showed a lack of accountability.

A lack of accountability would have been to do nothing, leaving the column on the website and pretending it wasn’t a problem. Instead, we removed the column in a timely manner, printed a formal retraction, ran a lengthy guest opinion opposing the column, attended a Beyond the Binary event, met with an LGBTRC representative and committed to making the above changes. We’re taking the necessary steps to learn from this situation and improve.

The controversy surrounding this column has taught us about the prejudices that exist on and around our campus. We hope readers have learned the same.

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