Controversy over a quote: The Mac Weekly lays out Global Center Dispute

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Editors’ Note: As described below, The Mac Weekly received a complaint about the accuracy of a quote in last week’s issue. As no retraction has been issued, in order to address this issue in a neutral manner, the editorial staff has chosen to print the positions of the various parties involved, mainly in their own words. On Tuesday, The Mac Weekly received an e-mail from Dean of Multicultural Life Joi Lewis in response to last week’s article by Rebecca DeJarlais and Eliot Brown, “As Institute takes form, diversity questions persist.” The e-mail addressed this quote from Political Science professor and newly-appointed Associate Dean of the Institute Andrew Latham:

“It is not correct that [multiculturalism is] being left behind,” Latham said. “We have listened, their voices have been heard and the final product was a consensus report endorsed by Duchess [Harris], Joi [Lewis] and Jane [Rhodes].”

The quote in question was taken from a student information session on Dec. 6, where Latham was responding to a question on the presence of multiculturalism in the Institute for Global Citizenship.

The following text is an excerpt of the e-mail Lewis sent and the results of an interview conducted by The Mac Weekly:
“As a member of the planning committee, I have consistently objected to the ways in which multiculturalism has been represented in this process and in the structure of the institute in a symbolic rather than substantive way. I did not endorse the final draft and I dissented at the last meeting and wrote a collaborative response to the final draft. I would like the record to reflect this.

“I also would like to be clear that I do not object to the institute per se; my concerns lie in process and in the symbolic representation of multiculturalism which is inherent in the current organizational structure. Therefore, I’m sure you can understand my concern about being misrepresented.”

In an interview on Tuesday, Lewis elaborated on her email. She said before the report was presented to the President, she made clear to Latham that she had concerns with the place of multiculturalism in the Institute. She said that she wanted to clarify her position as the reported quote by Andrew Latham misrepresented her position.

She said sometime around Labor Day, there was a meeting of the Institute’s planning committee, on which she served. “We met, and there was some dissent that I shared after the meeting, and then there was a final report that, in my opinion didn’t reflect what I had said. But yet I knew that things were moving forward,” she said.
Around week after the meeting, Lewis said she, along with others she did not name, wrote a letter to the Provost, the President and Latham regarding concerns with the role of multiculturalism’s place in the formation of the Institute. “There was a critique of the way that the center was being constructed,” she said. “[The letter] was a collaborative piece.”

In an interview this week, Latham responded to The Mac Weekly quote and Lewis’ e-mail:
“I don’t think I would have mentioned Duchess in that context. And I can’t imagine I said the rest of that: I don’t think I would have used the phrase ‘endorsed by’ then and I wouldn’t use it now,” he said. “I think it’s too strong of a statement in that context.”

“To the best of my recollection, when I asked ‘Can I submit this [to Rosenberg]?’ there was no objection,” Latham said. “I submitted the report to the President on the understanding that the committee had agreed that this was the appropriate next step.”

“The institutional leadership of multiculturalism was at the table during our deliberations; its views were clearly expressed and its voice heard.”

“It’s always been my commitment that the voices of leadership on multiculturalism would be listened to, and it is my commitment going forward that they will continue to be listened to,” Latham said. “Only Joi can give voice to her views on the merits of the planning process and its outcome-I certainly would never presume to speak for her on this issue.”

“Ultimately, though, I don’t believe we’re that far apart in our recollections. The quote was a response to a direct question from a student who made an assertion that was factually incorrect.”

Although reporters were unable to obtain a tape recording of the forum, they verified the accuracy of Latham’s quote with other Mac Weekly staff in attendance. The reporters also spoke with numerous students who said they left the forum with the impression that Harris, Lewis and Rhodes had, in fact, endorsed the final report, including Julia Eagles ’06.

“[Latham] said that he had talked to Joi and Jane and the American Studies department and that everyone was on board with the report,” Eagles said.