Commentary | Stop only focusing on the problems

The Daily should also look at solutions

After briefly flirting with positivity in my last column, I suppose it is time I get back to your regularly scheduled programming and return to complaining, as usual. And so, the subject of this week’s complaints will be…complaining.

Well, sort of. I suppose “complaining” makes it sound more petty than I want to sound, but it suits my rhetoric. See, when social justice is involved, I’ve noticed a tendency at The Daily to trot out statistics showing inequity in society, and then blame it on distant power structures. Articles such as “This institution is still too white,” (Editorial, February 7, page 15) and “Too few women and minorities in leadership roles, report says” (News, February 16, page 3) do just this, leaving the reader with the sense that something should be done; but there is little discussion of what specifically we, the readers, can do about it.

Obviously, all of these articles have just causes for complaint. There are too few women in math and physics departments, as well as in the faculty and administration –  largely due to institutionalized sexism. But, at the end of the day, many articles published in The Daily will lead the readers to that same conclusion. For me, the issue is just that – we spend a lot of time drawing attention to the negative (which is not bad in and of itself), but often neglect the discussion of potential solutions.

In the recent news piece “Too few women and minorities in leadership roles, report says,” the author provides good information about discrimination in the workplace – but, let’s face it, the presence of institutionalized racism and sexism in the world of business isn’t exactly groundbreaking news in and of itself. So, instead, let’s talk about solutions. How can we work to change this state of affairs? Or if we can’t directly change the way that things are, let’s talk about the people who are trying to: the organizations working to bring more women into the physics department, minorities into university administration, et cetera.

Pieces that only focus on the problem, without mentioning the solution, tend to push the responsibility onto some sort of distant actor. When The Daily editorial board calls for the administration to take a “top-down anti-racist agenda that confronts hiring policies, career advancement, and curriculum reform,” it puts the sole blame for this situation on the administration, ignoring other actors who may be involved, and larger structural problems in society that might be the cause of an overly white faculty. A more solution-oriented approach to the issue might have taken a look at some of the societal issues at play and discussed ways in which we, the students and primary readers of The Daily, can affect the matter.

Spreading awareness is an admirable goal. But discussing the same issues week after week without touching on the potential solutions or, better yet, the solutions that are already being put in place, makes the messages less powerful. It looks as if we are merely complaining, rather than seeking to affect meaningful change in society.

Readers’ Advocate is a twice-monthly column written by Austin Lloyd addressing the performance, relevance, and quality of The Daily. You can reach him at readersadvocate@mcgilldaily.com.


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