Newsroom ethics test preconceptions

In a few short weeks, University administrators will add another big name to the list of speakers that have appeared on campus.
The impending arrival of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was recently confirmed. She is expected to deliver the June 14 commencement speech, or, more correctly, the June 14 U.S. foreign policy monologue, to a captive audience.
Administrators are not structuring this highly memorable event around the needs of students, who have obviously placed limitless time and effort into their studies, nor their families, that have basically funded the school with tuition payments. Rather, they are making Albright and her “honoring” of our campus the center of attention.
The traditional schedule of graduation has been altered to appeal to Albright. The University has once again prioritized the desires of big business — in this case the U.S. government — over the comfort and preferences of the student population. Students and their families will be herded into Williams Arena to quietly listen to Albright’s appraisal of U.S. foreign policy.
Albright has neither an affiliation with the University nor a legitimate reason for appearing here. But she does possess something that the University administrators cannot resist — stature.
If an alumnus or any other conventional speaker would have the audacity to use a commencement speech for political purposes, he would be immediately chastised. But apparently Albright is invited to extol U.S. foreign policy and acclaim the government’s actions in regions such as Indonesia and the Middle East. Her intentions are not to commemorate graduates, but to perpetuate status quo politics in a place that is a forum for activism and political discourse.
University campuses are renowned arenas of political action and the questioning of political norms in order to improve what some students perceive as injustice and the creation of strife. For Albright to manipulate a commencement speech into a lauding of the status quo is eviscerating to the very nature of the University. She’s coming to assure students that our government is impeccable, that it is moral, that it is correct and that all its policies are strictly for the betterment of all the world’s nations.
Translation: Everything is good. Everything is OK. The United States is wonderful and benevolent. Changes are not needed.
What do you suppose that the citizens of Iraq think about this? Economic sanctions placed on Iraq due to immense pressure from the U.S. government have killed over a million Iraqi men, women and children.
During an appearance on “60 Minutes” on May 11, 1996, Albright was asked by journalist Leslie Stahl if the price of a half million Iraqi children who have died as a result of sanctions is worth it. Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” When asked at a press conference May 12 whether she regretted making that statement, she claimed that she did “not remember saying that.”
Albright’s comments were, understandably, the basis of much anti-American sentiment in the Arab world. However, they did not achieve much notoriety here in the United States because of the same empty rhetoric that Albright will inculcate into the minds of students and their families on June 14. Albright has countless times stated that the U.S. government desires a “peaceful, diplomatic solution” to the situation in Iraq. However, its specious solution, based on demagoguery toward Sadaam Hussein, has taken the lives of over one million Iraqi citizens.
Remember what happened at Ohio State when Albright decided to sell U.S. foreign policy to Big 10 schools’ students and faculty? Bill Richardson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, met the same fate when he visited our campus in an attempt to promote anti-Iraqi attitudes. It is unbelievable that Albright and the State Department would choose to return here to, once again, praise existing conditions. If Albright does officially visit out campus, a third protest is welcome and imminent.

Amirali Raissnia is a senior journalism student and a Daily copy editor.