The Oberlin Review

Word Choice Vital in Discussions of Misconduct

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To the Editors:

As an avid reader of the Review, I was concerned by last week’s headline for the Dec. 1 story covering former Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Bernard Matambo’s resignation. It was not the first page headline, “Matambo Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations,” but the second page headline, which read, “Creative Writing Department Loses Tenure Track Professor” that troubled me.

While this headline is factual, I feel it deliberately capitalizes on a fear that is deeply felt by many students and faculty about the futures of various majors and departments: that we are losing tenure-track professors at an alarming rate, and that under the current financial climate, these positions will not be renewed. This is not to say that the loss of a tenure-track professor should go unreported, but it certainly should not be the highlighted words selected for a story about sexual misconduct.

In the past few weeks, I have heard a lot about “loss.” The “loss” to House of Cards with the dismissal of Kevin Spacey. The “loss” to the comedy world with the renewed scrutiny and criticism of Louis C.K. However, I have not heard enough about the real loss being felt: the disenfranchisement of those who have experienced harm at the hands of these men, voices — often of women and minorities — who are then made absent from already male-dominated and primarily white industries. We should not treat the dismissal and condemnation of men who have caused harm as loss, but as opportunity. We should demand that the people who entertain us, mentor us, and teach us use the power they have more responsibly. We should demand that they be better.

These words are subtle; these words are important. Newspaper writers and editors, more than anyone, should understand that words have power. I hope that the Review will remember this the next time they cover a story with content as sensitive and important as that of last week’s.

Lilah Drafts-Johnson
College Senior

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