With UT Trayvon Cartoon & Other Stories, Remember that Students Still Learn

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Stephanie Eisner, the editorial cartoonist formally of the The Daily Texan who drew a racist cartoon, apologized pretty quickly. The Editorial Board, then was pretty quick to apologize, too.

The Texan Editorial Staff wrote:

The cartoonist, Stephanie Eisner, no longer works for The Daily Texan.

However, the decision to run the cartoon showed a failure in judgment on the part of the editorial board. We have engaged in meaningful dialogue with many people who shared their concerns and outrage with us.

We made a mistake, and we understand that the outcome of our action extends beyond Tuesday's cartoon and prompts us to reflect on a larger problem that persists at The Daily Texan and on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, something we should have done before Tuesday's paper ran.

Now, with the third instance of national Longhorn embarrassment this year, we're finally reminded that the University enrolls students. They're there to learn. They will inevitably make mistakes and improve themselves.

Perhaps UT students have succeeded so much in recent years that our standards are extra high for the 40 Acres, and that's something for which Longhorns can be proud. But I highly doubt that this ruckus would have occurred if the cartoon appeared in The Battalion.  And that's because Texas A&M, like the University of Texas, is made up of teenagers and other young adults who are still preparing themselves for the bigger and better parts of life. The Battalion and The Daily Texan are not major newspapers; they are student newspapers.

The criticism they receive is definitely deserved, but we should still cut them some slack. As you may note in the Texan's apology above, they've already noticed that the outcome of their “action extends beyond Tuesday's cartoon and prompts us to reflect on a larger problem.” Learning.

The Daily Texan also has a faculty adviser to teach them. Their adviser, who did not get a chance to see the cartoon before it was placed in the paper, stated in a note on Tuesday that “They're also finding out what it's like to be in the glare of the media spotlight. Having been there myself, I can assure you, it's a lesson that won't be lost on them.”

It's the University of Texas at Austin. Despite the bad press, it's still a school. Even College Republicans will likely see their mistakes as potential lessons. And then, when they're not students anymore, they'll all be better for it. As the world piles onto UT for its apparently racist population, let's remember that these people are supposed to be imperfect. That's why our government helps pay for their education, right?

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6 Comments

  1. Student journalist fired for opinion?
    I'm coming late to this controversy, but as a former Daily Texan editorial writer, I am dismayed that student journalist Stephanie Eisner has been removed for her editorial cartoon.

    I'm sorry to say I don't read the Texan regularly these days, so I don't know the general tenor of Ms. Eisner's work.  But I don't need to.

    I looked at her cartoon.  It could be interpreted a number of ways, which is good for a cartoon.  I took it to be criticism of the two-dimensional reporting of the national media.

    Some people found the cartoon offensive.  Okay.

    I'm also a former journalist who has been fired for offending people.  I hope Ms. Eisner doesn't learn the lesson that she dare not offend people.

    So, I'm sending a message to the Texan editorial staff:  Take your lumps, and admit your mistakes, but don't let the vigilantes grind you down.

    -Robin Cravey

    • Hear, hear!
      Eisner's cartoon was bad on two counts. First, it was clumsy.  Eisner might have intended to make it about the media's feeding frenzy, but it came across as trivializing Trayvon Martin's murder. Second, the opinion it expresses is completely wrong — the murder of an unarmed kid by a neighborhood watch leader, and the subsequent inaction by the police, is a national disgrace, and the media is right to give it plenty of attention.

      But being inartful isn't a crime, and offering different opinions is what editorial cartoonists are for. Michael Ramirez has written tons of stuff that offends me. So has Bruce Tinsley (Mallard Fillmore).  Neither one of them should be fired for getting under my skin, and neither should Eisner.

      I hope that Ms. Eisner learns from her mistake, and that the Daily Texan learns from its mistake, too.  Not by firing Eisner, but by exercising better judgement on a day-to-day basis.  

    • Agreed
      It was clumsy, but it didn't strike me as racist.

      There have definitely been far worse things said by people with far more experience.

  2. Increase the experience of diversity
    There's a clear theme in the College Republican remarks and the Trayvon cartoon in that much of the insensitivity (and with the College R's, overt racism) is directed towards African Americans.  A UT student I spoke with about these recent events said he felt a sense that African-American students are isolated on the UT campus in terms of their experiences, namely residential life and extra-curriculars.

    What I'd like to see from this is a greater effort on the part of UT and broad campus organizations to intentionally diversify, and pro-actively reach out to include African-American students in a wider range of campus life. What can campus wide organizations do to be more welcoming and inclusive of all students, in every possible identity category possible?

    I'm glad that UT has so many excellent organizations for African-American students, i.e. the Black Students Association, African-American Greek organizations, and other clubs. However, I would like to see leadership from the broader umbrella organizations proactively recruit members that are as diverse as the student body to join. One of the best parts of college is being exposed to so many different people with diverse backgrounds. These recent events suggest to me that UT could do a lot more to help actively foster an awareness of diverse experiences. I'm not advocating for tokenism, but rather an effort to get a wider range of people involved in campus activities. Perhaps the Daily Texan can play a leading role in fostering what is not just tolerance, but a celebration of diversity and understanding of the different experiences and backgrounds present on campus.

    I was lucky to have a very diverse college experience, in part because I played varsity sports, and sports teams and the athletic department in general in my university were pretty diverse. My rowing team probably had 50% of all African-American varsity rowers in the Ivy League on the squad. The diversity on our team — ethnic, socio-economic, geographic, sexual identity/orientation etc. — was hugely valuable to me as a kid from an extremely white upper-middle-class hometown, and I'm really glad that our team had a welcoming and inclusive vibe such that such a diverse group of people sat in our boats together.  

    • well, this is very true
      Even in University Democrats, during my four years at UT, there were always very few active African Americans. Not many Asian Americans were in the club, either.

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