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Columns: Placing Op-EdsPresidential Leadership Generates Media Coverage: A Case Study
News clips from: WashingtonWisconsinTexasIllinoisIndianaPennsylvania

Making diversity news

Placing Op-Eds

The op-ed page is among the most widely read sections of the newspaper. It appears opposite the editorial page-hence its name, opposite editorial page. Op-ed pages generally include both syndicated national columns and guest editorials on timely issues by local experts. These guest editorials are called "op-ed pieces."

Op-ed pieces are five hundred to seven hundred words long, emphasize the writer's opinion or experience, and are of interest to the general public. One example might be an op-ed on the benefits to students and the community of service learning that addresses issues of civic responsibility.

If you are considering an op-ed piece:

  • Draft a piece that is around six hundred words. If your op-ed is too long, the editor will cut it-so better to make decisions about what to include yourself. Remember that readers don't know much about the subject, so your job is to write a piece that is compelling, understandable to nonacademics, and persuasive.
  • Get the name, address, and fax and telephone numbers of the op-ed page editor. Your public information office should have this information. Ask how often the paper publishes op-eds; some newspapers run them daily and others just once a week.
  • Send or fax your op-ed with a brief cover letter explaining who you are, your expertise in the topic, and why it is timely (perhaps the students have just completed a project or an upcoming local event will focus on the project).
  • Follow up a few days later with a telephone call to check if the editor has your op-ed. If not, offer to resend it.
  • If one newspaper turns you down, submit the piece to another daily or weekly paper.

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Presidential Leadership Generates Media Coverage: A Case Study

When Gary Oertli was hired last year as president of Shoreline Community College, diversity work and connecting with the community were high priorities. Some colleagues wondered whether a white man could be an effective advocate for diversity with the media and the public. Sensitive to this concern and committed to diversity education, Oertli took a series of steps to ensure the success of his diversity outreach.

From the outset, Oertli expressed his personal commitment to pluralism. He learned quickly about diversity efforts at Shoreline, such as the multicultural studies requirement, and repeatedly stressed their importance.

He established a Diversity Council comprised of more than one hundred representatives from all campus constituencies. He attended every meeting and spoke publicly about the council's work. He created a diverse senior-level management team representative of the school. He championed a new student diversity education center.

Oertli's commitment to diversity has been reflected in the local media coverage of Shoreline activities over the last year. Reporters have covered numerous activities that highlight and explore the rich diversity at Shoreline, including everything from a scholarship program for Asian American youth considering careers in law enforcement, to a speech by gay Olympian Greg Louganis, to recent Martin Luther King Day activities.

Shoreline Community College is located just north of Seattle, Washington.

Media watch
News clips

University of Washington

"It just dawned on me one day. I was the only Asian American writer I knew in the world. I'm nineteen years old. I can't be the only Asian American writer. No high school teacher had ever assigned an Asian American book. No college teacher had ever mentioned one." University of Washington Asian American Literature Professor Shawn Wong, one of seven faculty of color profiled in the PBS documentary Shattering the Silences: Minority Professors Break into the Ivory Tower.

From: "TV Show Explores Lives of Minority Professors," Seattle Times, 31 January 1997

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University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

"Corporations should go beyond the proverbial Rodney King question: 'Can we all get along?' When employees fully understand the urgent business necessity of diversification, they will modify their workplace behavior if not their workplace attitudes." Walter C. Farrell, Jr., professor of educational policy and community studies and James H. Johnson, Jr., E. Maynard Adams Professor of Business, Geography, and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, reacting to Texaco's new commitment to diversity made in the face of discrimination unveiled at the company.

From: "Towards Diversity, and Profits," New York Times, 12 January 1997

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University of Illinois–Champaign

What's in multicultural education for the traditional white male? "In this world of the global market, it is essential for workers and citizens to be aware of the different cultures they work with and serve. Everyone-women, minorities, and white males-has something to gain from access, equity, and diversity, and no one has anything to lose."

Michael Vitoux, Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois-Champaign, cited in "Access...Equity...Diversity," Champaign Prospectus, 27 November 1996

"The report a few weeks ago from the National Alumni Forum seemed quite alarming: 'A new study reveals that two-thirds of seventy leading colleges and universities have dropped the Shakespeare requirement.'...But before the intellectual lynch mob starts assembling for a march to save the Bard...people should check the facts: The claims made by the National Alumni Forum are simply false....This Shakespeare Scare is built on gross exaggeration, and it shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone."

From: "Come Not to Bury Shakespeare; He Lives," by John K. Wilson, a graduate student in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and author of The Myth of Political Correctness (Duke University Press, 1995), Chronicle of Higher Education, 14 February 1997

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Indiana University

"What I would like to make sure happens is that every student, faculty member, and staff member at IU take it upon themselves to educate themselves about diversity issues and understand the pain when people are separated or alienated for who they are. To me, that means dialogue....Diversity education actually is about getting people to talk about their opinions and values, and to hear how those might be different from others in the community. Through dialogue, you build understanding." Bill Shipton, associate director of residence life at Indiana University, on the goal of the Multimedia Campus Diversity Summit.

From: "Diversity Summit Helps Broaden Understanding," Bloomington Herald-Times, 14 November 1996

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Temple University

"Students have been cheated in the classroom from learning about who they are, given the way world history has been taught....The rest of the world is either exotic, essentially different, or alternatively essentially the 'same' as the West-give or take the vast differences in levels of development." Temple University Professor Peter Gran, author of Beyond Eurocentrism: A New View of Modern World History, arguing that historians and scholars should look at other countries and cultures without the influence of the Eurocentric model.

From: "Professor Advocates New Method of Studying World History," Philadelphia New Observer, 18 December 1996

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Universtiy of Texas–San Antonio

Gena Dagel Caponi, assistant professor of American studies at the University of Texas-San Antonio, wrote an op-ed about a class she taught on African American culture. In the class, one student remarked, "If there was this much I didn't know about (my own) African American culture...I must be even more ignorant about other people. I'd like to take a course on Mexican American...or Native American culture." Caponi continued, "Historically in (this) community, relations between Mexican Americans and...African Americans have not been cordial....Yet here was a black student saying he wished he knew more about Mexican Americans, and he might even take a course on the topic....Studying any one part of us does not divide us; it educates us. Occasionally, it inspires us."

From: "Multicultural Studies Don't Divide Us," Christian Science Monitor, 6 January 1997

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