University fails to minimize harm in midst of racial climate

In recent weeks, the University of Wisconsin- Madison communications team has missed opportunities to represent administration during the racial tension on campus. Instead, several mistakes led to an uproar in the multicultural community. In the most recent incident, an article describing the university’s new approach toward working with newer faculty and staff accompanied an older photo of a former adviser for the PEOPLE Program. While PEOPLE celebrated his work at the institution before his departure almost a year ago, this particular mistake leaves questions for some people. Why use this particular image? Was it because it featured a Black person? Why does the university know he left?

The Society of Professional Journalism’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to be accountable and transparent. The communications staff did not face this issue head on. Instead, the photo accompanying the article was swapped after the original post had been shared throughout Facebook. No one understood why or how the mistake was made. At a time when the communication professionals working for this institution should have been minimizing harm, they did more harm in a tense racial climate.

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