Editorial: Why "Masks" was retracted

On May 14, The Whitworthian published a story in the opinions section called “Masks: one student’s story of discrimination on campus.” This story was published anonymously. While publishing anonymously is not ideal in most situations, The Whitworthian’s policies allow for anonymity when there is evidence that revealing the identity of people represented or quoted in an article may cause undue harm, emotional, physical or other, and when an editor determines there is sufficient verification of the facts, events, quotations, etc. present in the anonymous account.

In the case of “Masks,” editors felt the article both earned anonymity and could be verified. Anonymity was granted because the intent of the story was not meant to target specific individuals, but to bring to light the fact that despite Whitworth’s efforts to be supportive and inclusive, some students do not feel it is as welcoming as it seems. Identifying figures in the account may have caused readers to instead focus on individuals rather than the larger problem outlined in the story. As it was published in the opinions section, the story was not intended to be taken as a news account, but as the perspective of one student.

After much thought, the editors have decided to take “Masks” down. We appreciate the author’s perspective and respect people who share their experiences, but believe there are reasons the article should not remain posted. This is not a response to any pressure from administration or other outside parties.

First, while it is mentioned above we believe that “Masks” deserved anonymity, its anonymous status has caused some readers to try to guess who the author is, or who other people in the story might be. The Whitworthian is responsible for protecting the anonymity of such sources, and not protecting anonymity could be harmful for people involved. Second, the editors feel there are more effective ways this story could be told. There are always many sides to each situation, and since the publishing of “Masks,” the editors have heard differing perspectives on this issue.  “Masks” in its current state, with its combination of anonymity and a singular source, may not provide the most accurate information to enter this complex conversation as it could if told in a different form. Finally, according to the May 15 statement by Lorna Hernandez Jarvis, chief diversity officer and associate vice president for diversity, equity & inclusion, the university is still continuing its formal inquiry into the issue. The publication of “Masks” could interfere with this investigation.

It is for these reasons that “Masks” was removed from thewhitworthian.news. The Whitworthian editors appreciate the bravery of the “Masks” author for coming forward with their experience, and hope that for those that read it, it served as a catalyst for necessary dialogue on campus. Based on the online response, it’s clear that fighting discrimination and injustice is something Whitworthian readers take very seriously. We hope to continue to bring a voice to these issues in the future.

Editorials in the "In the Loop" section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, comprised of five editors.