Only that I'm appalled by the Capital Times reporting on this matter over the last two weeks.Here's my account of Kaplan's letter, which explains, honestly, I believe, what he was teaching that fateful day and makes it possible to understand the terrible mistake the students made. Here is the original article the Cap Times published on February 23rd. Key passage:
In an e-mail organizing the meeting, students alleged that Kaplan made stereotypical remarks such as "all 2nd generation Hmong end up in gangs and other criminal activity" and "Hmong men have no talent other than to kill."And here is an article the Cap Times published on on February 28.
"These are just some of the incredibly offensive and racist remarks that Kaplan made," Hmong student [name deleted], the author of the e-mail, wrote.
[CORRECTION: As noted below, I linked and quoted the wrong story there. The Cap Times article after the forum is here. It has the outrageous headline "Prof a no-show at forum." It begins with this emotive presentation of the wounded students and the professor who disappointed them:
Law student [name deleted] told the crowd Kaplan's comments had "damaged an entire population." She said she has heard from Hmong people across the country who are angered by the statements.
[Name deleted] said she has been disheartened by some people's inability to understand why the comments would be offensive. "I believe the underlying issue is that no one knows who we are," she said.
Clearly, eloquently and sometimes tearfully, the seven young Asian women who raised the issue of a law professor's allegedly insulting remarks about the Hmong told their story at a public forum Thursday night.[I consider the headline outrageous because it channels the disappointment of students who formed the belief that they was going to examine what happened in the class, when the event was not billed like that. It was promoted as an educational session with the scholar teaching about Hmong culture. The article makes it look as though there were some weird bait-and-switch, where the students came to some sort of show trial -- as if that would have been appropriate -- and then got stuck hearing a lecture. I avoided the event myself, mainly because I didn't want to sit though a medicinal lecture. If I had thought it was going to be more of a show-trial or witch hunt I would have gone so I could record the insanity.]
The other side was not heard, however, as Professor Leonard Kaplan did not attend the forum at the University of Wisconsin Law School, to the intense disappointment of many of the more than 200 who came, hoping to hear both sides of the matter.
"He will not be here tonight because he fears that his presence would shift the focus of the discussion to what happened in his class, which would seriously detract from the broader educational function that he hopes this meeting can serve," said Professor Jane Larson.
"That's it?" shouted someone in the crowd, which then listened patiently to a lecture by Jane Hamilton-Merritt, an author and expert on Hmong culture and history, before hearing from the law students.]
Here's a letter by former UW law student Mark A. Edwards, addressed to the Capital Times:
Dear Editor:What a shameful display by our local newspaper!
I read your recent articles reporting racist statements attributed to Professor Len Kaplan with a sense of disgust and dread. I don't know Professor Kaplan personally, only by reputation; but based on his spotless reputation for intelligence and compassion, I knew the stories were about as credible as him having flapped his arms and flown around the lecture hall. That was the source of my disgust. Now, many days too late, you reveal that his accuser was not present at the time of the alleged remarks, and that students who were present deny they occurred. I'm an academic myself; my dread comes from knowing that one day an editor might decide that unverified allegations about me are also newsworthy. That's called the chilling effect, and it works wonders to destroy a university. I realize that fact-checking is labor-intensive, and can end up costing you a story that sells copy. But as a service to your readers, it would be interesting if you could attempt to quantify, in dollars, the extra advertising revenue you gained by publishing this particular sensational, unverified story. Then we would know that exact price of a man's reputation. And it would also be informative if you could let us know, having done that, how well you sleep afterwards.
Mark A. Edwards
IN THE COMMENTS: Chris Murphy, City Editor, for The Capital Times, writes:
I take exception to your characterization of our coverage of the Kaplan matter, which has been the most authoritative and thorough available anywhere. The fact that Professor Kaplan's explanation of events has been under-reported until now (see our front-page story today here)...That is the story written by the reporter I refused to communicate with, as discussed at the top of this post.
... is because he chose not to discuss in any detail what he actually said for almost three weeks after the class, or 11 days after the first of two public hearings that drew hundreds of people, including a public apology from the dean of the law school. We contacted Professor Kaplan several times prior to the publication of our stories to ask for further comment, and he repeatedly declined, as he did for other media.He had his reason for not talking to the press. There were other ways you could have tried to find out more about what happened.
But we have worked to explain his side of things even when he wouldn't do so himself. In your post, you neglect to link to our March 1 story that aired the perspective of students in the class and sympathetic faculty who didn't think Kaplan was being offensive and that his critics were mistaken. See it here.Yes, I remember that day. Wasn't that story buried deep in the paper when another story was featured much more conspicuously with an inflammatory headline? I had trouble finding that on line.
You also erroneously attribute a State Journal story about the March 1 public hearing to us.Sorry. That was a mistake made while putting the post together. (Both newspapers appear on-line as Madison.com.) But my position, taken in email with your reporter, was based on following all the news stories as the situation unfolded.
Our coverage of that event (which was not on page one, incidentally) is here, and it does not quote [name deleted] (who indeed was not in the Feb. 15 class).Yes, that is the story I meant to link to, the one with the outrageous headline: "Prof a no-show at forum." Look how that headline blames him for not showing up (without conveying the fact that the event was supposed to be an educational lecture about Hmong culture which would have been spoiled by his presence). Look at how the text highlights and channels the students' emotions. This was written by the reporter I didn't want to talk to. Compare the coverage by Megan Twohey in the MSJ, here.
Instead, that story quotes [name deleted], who was in the Feb. 15 class and who does maintain that Kaplan said outrageous things that day.There were, I think, 15 students in the class. You should have tried to interview some of them.
You don't say in the post exactly what appalls you, though I gather you are of the same mind as Mr. Edwards, who thinks we have no qualms about printing whatever unverified allegations we happen to hear about. That's not what happened here. When hundreds of students gather on campus to discuss and protest what they say a professor has said, and when that professor's dean publicly apologizes to more than 100 people, we would be negligent not to report what they're talking about. Kaplan's version of the story needed to be told, and we repeatedly asked him to tell us, but he refused for 10 days. We did what we could, but he gave us almost nothing to work with.I agree that you had to cover the story, given the public events, but you indulged in tabloid-style coverage when a man's reputation was on the line. Journalism isn't just repeating what people are "talking about." If talking to the accused is the only way you can think of to find out what happened, you should pack it in.
NOTE: I've deleted the student names that originally appeared here. I didn't like using the students' names, and only had them because they were in the newspaper article I was commenting on. Obviously, the names are still available in the linked newspaper articles.