OUR OPINION: Public needs facts behind UND photos
On Friday, UND students and others held a Rally Against Racism, a response in part to recent photos that had surfaced on social media. Such rallies are important--or even vital, to the extent that students use them to call attention to slights th...
On Friday, UND students and others held a Rally Against Racism , a response in part to recent photos that had surfaced on social media.
Such rallies are important-or even vital, to the extent that students use them to call attention to slights they've experienced on campus. But before people pass final judgment on the photos themselves, it's essential that UND answer one key question:
In other words, what circumstances led up to the creation and release of the photos? Who did what, when did they do it, and why?
If our country's experience with accusations, revelations and the like have taught Americans anything, it should be this: Don't jump to conclusions. Just because something looks bad doesn't always mean it is bad, as we've all learned.
Or at least, it may not be bad in the way that snap judgments proclaim. For example, when it comes to the second photo-the one of the four people apparently wearing blackface -it matters who attached the tagline "Black Lives Matter." It matters why that person did this.
It also matters whether the photo subjects were wearing "blackface" at all, or whether they'd just undergone facial treatments that used black material.
Things are not always as they seem. Evidence of this surfaced as recently as Monday in Fargo. That's when an investigator said North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani did not lie in the course of a recent controversy, despite appearances at the time that looked very bad for Bresciani.
Despite those appearances, the Board of Higher Education did not rush to judgment. The members first determined to learn the facts-and they were right to do so.
Herald editorials have made this plea before. But it bears repeating here because it seems in danger of being ignored. For example, UND already is setting up a diversity advisory council in partial response to the photos. And the woman whose phone was stolen in connection with the first photo-which showed people wearing UND clothing and smiling in what looks like a dorm, over a shockingly racially charged caption-said at the rally that she'd "asked the UND police department to end its criminal investigation into the matter, because she doesn't think the university will do anything about it," Saturday's story about the rally reported.
"I just want some form of action to take place and not for the school to keep sweeping incidents like this under the rug," the story described her telling the crowd.
But shouldn't any action start with a finding of facts-exactly the task of the police?
"Sentence first - verdict afterwards," the Queen says in Alice in Wonderland. But Alice was written as satire. The higher-ed board got the order right in the Bresciani case; and where the photos are concerned, UND should do the same.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald