As I recently wrote a response to the controversial Daily article “Student athletes had access to list of easy courses”, I feel it only appropriate that I update our readers on the most recent drama in what seems like an entirely unnecessary saga about a list of courses. Though published in The Daily, the article was actually the brain-child of the organization California Watch and the Stanford course COMM 177. In fact, The Daily excuses itself from any involvement in its production in an editor’s note preceding the article: “The following story was not written or edited by The Stanford Daily staff. The production occurred under the guidance of California Watch.”
Now, while that seems a little hands-off for an editor to me, the bigger point is that the investigative journalists, namely authors Amy Harris and Ryan Mac, behind the article needed to do a little more investigating before it hit the presses. Or at least, that’s Associate Professor Donald Barr’s opinion, which he made very clear in an email to the two authors that has been circulating on campus email lists.
The entire email can be seen below, but in it Barr expresses his displeasure at being “egregiously misquoted.” In the original article, Barr was quoted as saying “(Stanford) accommodates athletes in the manner that they accommodate students with disabilities.” Barr not only denies ever saying such a thing, but he also chides Daily reporters for what he felt was the implication that his course, “Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, Health” was lacking in academic rigor.
Barr’s ultimatum: “It is for this reason that I request that you immediately retract your story, and publicly correct your error. Failure to do would, I believe, violate core ethical principles of journalism.” I suppose that means the ball is in The Daily’s court.
The email from Donald Barr below:
Sent: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 1:09:29 PM
Dear Ryan and Julie,
I want you to know that I was shocked and deeply offended in reading a news story in which you egregiously misquoted me. I must ask that you immediately retract your story, and notify all those who have quoted it of your error.
During the brief interview one of you had with me during my office hours, I explained that I, as other faculty, sometimes accommodate student-athletes’ off-campus competition schedules by arranging with the coaching staff for the proctoring of examinations. As I explained to you, we also do this for other students involved in certain types of extracurricular activities.
At no point during our brief conversation did I discuss the University’s policies towards providing reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities. Neither did I compare the accommodations provided for athletes to the accommodations provided for students with disabilities. It is for this reason that I request that you immediately retract your story, and publicly correct your error. Failure to do would, I believe, violate core ethical principles of journalism.
I am copying Mark Katches on this message. As the instructor in the course for which you wrote your story, I believe he shares in the responsibility for correcting the error.
As an additional concern, the student who interviewed me never raised the issue of the academic rigor of my course. Nevertheless the published article implies that course grading is lenient. I believe the academic rigor of the course is reflected in its selection by the University as meeting the General Education Requirement in Education for Citizenship/American Cultures. In addition, at the request of a national publisher, I have written a textbook covering the material covered in the course. That text is in use at colleges and universities throughout the country.
Donald Barr, MD, PhD
Associate Professor (Teaching), Department of Pediatrics