Coalition Says Brown U. Paper Mislead Readers, Sent Spies

Former members of a coalition that stole the March 16, 2001, press run of The Brown University Daily Herald, the school’s student newspaper, remain skeptical of the media, are committed to political dialogue and are disgusted by David Horowitz, the paper’s former editor, the group said in a Thursday evening discussion on the Brown campus.

The discussion, which was open to the entire Brown community and attended by about 25 students, was prefaced by a showing of the documentary made by coalition member Kohei Ishihara ’02.

The 20-minute film, which was never completed, includes footage of confrontations between the race-oriented coalition and Herald editors at The Herald office from 2001. At one meeting between the two parties, where the film states the editors refused to allow cameras, a tape-recorded conversation documents the editors’ rejection of the coalition’s demands and the coalition’s veiled threat to prevent distribution of The Herald.

The coalition had a petition signed by 200 Brown students demanding money from Horowitz’s advertisement, which cited reasons against reparations for slavery. The group demanded the money be given to the school’s Third World Center, which strives to “promote racial and ethnic pluralism in the Brown community,” and a full page of ad space to respond to his ad.

Katherine Boas ’02, one of three editors-in-chief of The Herald at the time, said Thursday she had not known coalition members had entered the office with either cameras or tape recorders.

The film, which describes The Herald’s editors as “experts in misrepresenting,” also included footage of coalition rallies on the day the papers were stolen and interviews with coalition leadership about the logistics of removing the papers. The movie also discussed the physical and verbal threats to which group members were subjected afterward.

Following the showing of the documentary, several students who had been involved in the coalition were on hand to discuss their experiences with the group. Manisha Kumar ’04 said that, although the controversy was later framed as a free-speech issue, it was from the beginning about “The (Herald’s) history of insensitivity to the Third World community” in its coverage of convocations, the TWC and misquotes and misspelled names.

Herald opinions columnist Brian Rainey ’04 echoed Kumar’s sentiments, noting that for a number of years, the school had seen a “racial blowout” each spring and that on each occasion, The Herald had “portrayed the Third World community as Zulu warriors.” By the time the Horowitz ad was published, “people were really fed-up with The Herald,” he said.

Their experience after the theft of the papers only confirmed the coalition members’ poor impression of the media, they said. National newspapers that covered the controversy surrounding the events between the coalition and The Herald wrongly reported that the coalition “stormed” The Herald, Rainey said, and consistently distorted the coalition’s positions.

In the weeks that followed after the event, The Herald continued to make factual errors as it reported on the theft of the papers and sent its reporters as “spies to coalition meetings,” Kumar said.

It was at this point in the Thursday night discussion that Doreen Wang ’05 requested that any Herald reporters present identify themselves, and then asked the rest of the group whether they were comfortable speaking in the presence of a Herald representative. None of the students responded to either question.

In general, students said The Herald now presents more balanced coverage than it did in the spring of 2001. But the only thing that can truly repair relations between The Herald and Brown’ Third World community may be the passage of time, Kumar said.

“It’s a good thing that by May, no one on campus will have seen what happened firsthand,” she says of the coalition/Herald event from 2001. “That’s the way I see the campus healing.”

Many of the students intimately involved with the coalition did not feel emotionally prepared to attend a separate lecture presented by former Herald editor Horowitz on Wednesday, Kumar added.

According to Brenda Allen, associate provost and director of institutional diversity at Brown, those students chose not to attend Horowitz’s talk did not miss much. “If anyone left there feeling they learned something significant about anything, that’s a shame,” she said to the Thursday night group regarding Wednesday’s lecture.

Although the university should endeavor to present a diversity of views to students, Allen said, Horowitz is not the right representative for the argument against reparations for slavery.

“That man doesn’t have a clue about race in America,” she said. “He’s a waste of time.”

Quinney Harris ’06 agreed with Allen that Horowitz’s lecture was unproductive. Conservative students “used the cover of intellectual diversity” to justify using Brown’s Undergraduate Finance Board funds to pay Horowitz’s expenses for the talk, when in fact “his presence here on campus wasn’t even necessary,” Harris said.

“I felt insulted for our entire community,” said Daniel Bassichis ’06 of Horowitz’s presentation. Audience members “did their job” by listening respectfully to Horowitz’s talk and then, in the question-and-answer period, “tearing him apart,” Bassichis said.

“He’s not a problem,” said Will Tucker ’04 of Horowitz. “He’s just an asshole.”