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Students angry at invitation to journalist who advised against rush to judgment in cop shootings

A pair of DePaul University students recently took to their student paper to complain about the invitation of a “controversial” journalist to campus.

What makes the Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn so contentious, according to Sonal Soni and Nadia Hernandez? His “expressed racist views about Latinx youth and great insensitivity towards police brutality.”

Thus, his invitation as a member of a panel discussing “Tough Times for Local Journalism” next week is “insensitive” and “inappropriate.”

Soni and Hernandez appear to have the same beefs about Zorn as Northwestern University Professor Steven Thrasher. Earlier this year, Thrasher, well, thrashed Zorn over his comments regarding the police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Zorn had dared to write that it “was still too soon to draw conclusions” about the shooting before bodycam footage became available.

Soni and Hernandez claim such is “unsettling […] because no matter what decisions [Toledo] made in life, whether good or bad, he was ultimately a child […] Children are innocent, and they should be protected, even posthumously.”

Further, no cop should ever shoot a “child — “even in self-defense,” the students argue.

MORE: Student op-ed: ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ ‘MAGA’ are inherently racist

Making matters worse for Zorn is that he wasn’t equally as hard on Kyle Rittenhouse and George Zimmerman, two white men who killed people allegedly in self-defense. (Zimmerman actually is Hispanic, but the media often referred to him as “white Hispanic.”)

Zorn brazenly had written of the latter: “Zimmerman was acquitted at trial in 2013 [for the shooting of Trayvon Martin], and, I believe, rightly so.” And to the horror of the authors, Zorn said of the former “Whether you think Rittenhouse is a hero for helping guard against a repeat of the vandalism the night before, or if you think he’s a reckless wannabe cop who had no business in Kenosha, you’ve got to concede that, at that moment, he was probably terrified.”

From the op-ed:

Toledo was murdered in March 2021. Inviting Zorn to guest speak at DePaul a mere six months after the fact is insensitive because students of color, specifically Latinx students, may still be mourning his death. Selecting Zorn to speak at DePaul shows students of color that the school has no regard for their physical or mental wellbeing.

DePaul does not have a policy on hate speech, and they are allowed to invite whoever they want to speak on campus. We believe that hate speech should not be allowed on campus because it can put students at risk of vulnerable situations.

Inviting Zorn to speak violates what St. Vincent DePaul stood for and what his legacy continues to represent. If the university and its journalism department genuinely cared for its students, especially its marginalized students, they would make the Vincentian decision to drop Zorn from next week’s panel and hire more faculty of color.

Note the use of “murder” by the student authors regarding Toledo (also used for Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin). Soni and Hernandez use the word as fact, not opinion. However, “murder” has a specific meaning, and it applies to neither Eric Stillman (who shot and killed Toledo) nor Zimmerman.

Read the column.

MORE: Student op-ed: Capital ‘B’ in ‘Black,’ lowercase ‘w’ in ‘white’ combats white supremacy

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.