Campus events respond to Holocaust ad

March 2, 2010

A pair of campus events will address the Badger Herald’s recent decision to publish an online ad from an organization that denies the existence of the Holocaust.

The Offices of the Dean of Students and UW Hillel will jointly host a panel discussion entitled “Journalism, Ethics and Sensitivity” from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, March 4 in 272 Bascom Hall.

The issue arose in early February when anti-Semitic comments were posted in the forum section of a Herald article. The issue was heightened when the Holocaust denier group placed the ad, which the Herald accepted.

Herald editor Jason Smathers has publicly stated that he fully rejects the claims of the group, but argues that the campus community is intelligent enough to review and discredit the group’s ideas on its own. The Herald operates independently of UW-Madison.

The ad is “a vile, reprehensible and absurd recreation of history that would be rejected as blatant lies and fantasy by any rational student on campus,” Smathers wrote in explaining the decision.

UW-Madison Dean of Students Lori Berquam will help moderate a group of students and faculty interested in discussing the intersection of free speech and campus climate.

“My role is to bring people together to for a thoughtful discussion of these important issues," Berquam says. “The university stands by the principals of free expression, but also wants to give voice to members of the Jewish community, who have found the Herald’s actions divisive and hurtful.”

The panel is expected to include Smathers, Lew Friedland and Stephen J.A. Ward of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, ASM Chair Tyler Junger and Charles Brace of the Daily Cardinal, among others.

In addition, beginning at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, UW Hillel will hold a Library Mall event designed to remember and educate about the impact of the Holocaust. Chancellor Biddy Martin is expected to attend the event.

For more information on this event, email Greg Steinberger at gsteinberger@uwhillel.org. Both events are free and open to the public.

Martin, herself a scholar of German Studies, issued her own statement on Holocaust denial in the March 2 Badger Herald.

“Anyone sensitive to the long-term, intergenerational effects of trauma, but also everyone who cares about truth, will be disgusted by efforts to deny the source of that trauma and the facts about Nazi genocide that have been established by the historical record,” Martin wrote.