Marquette Warrior: Public Affairs Conceals Public Relations Fiasco

Monday, February 07, 2005

Public Affairs Conceals Public Relations Fiasco

Marquette’s censorship of the College Republicans “Adopt A Sniper” fundraiser has been a public relations fiasco, but somebody who only sees what the University sends out to faculty, administrators and staff would hardly know that. The accounts in the regular “News Clips” e-mails have been thoroughly sanitized.

The brouhaha was first mentioned in “Marquette University News Clips for Feb. 3, 2005.” Let’s quote it verbatum:

MU shuts down ‘Adopt a Sniper’

Marquette spokeswoman Brigid O’Brien released a statement Wednesday that said the university strongly supports the U.S. military and has sponsored plenty of “support the troops” activities. “In the context of the university’s Jesuit, Catholic mission, we could not allow fund raising in the student union for a group whose rhetoric regarding ‘snipers’ could be widely misinterpreted as having a cavalier attitude toward the taking of a human life,” the statement said. “In this case the display of the materials that promote the use of violence without appropriate background information was unacceptable.”

Story appeared in the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, Feb. 3, 2005

Story also appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 3, 2005

This implies that the story appeared on only one out of town paper in addition to the local Journal-Sentinel. The “News Clips” for the following day (February 4th) also dealt briefly with the controversy.

Wisconsin: University Rejects ‘Adopt a Sniper’ Fund-Raiser

A spokesman for the university, Brigid O’Brien, said the group’s rhetoric had “raised some questions and we had some strong objections as a Jesuit university.”

Story appeared in the New York Times, Feb. 4, 2005

AP and Reuters wire stories also appeared in 90 newspapers nationally

Editorial: MU right to end fund-raiser

The university had a legitimate problem with at least one of the slogans that accompanied the fund-raising effort: “1 Shot, 1 Kill, No Remorse, I Decide.” It is hard to disagree with the university’s contention that this wording reflects a cavalier attitude toward the killing of human beings.

Story appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 4, 2005

Here the flacks admit that the story appeared in 90 newspapers nationally, but provide a link only to the New York Times version. This very brief, truncated version quotes Marquette’s rationale for shutting down the exhibit, but fails to include material in the original AP story that supports the “Adopt A Sniper” effort. The full version of the story (as it appeared in USA Today) has the following at the bottom:

The College Republicans had received approval from the Jesuit school to set up a table at the Alumni Memorial Union where they could sell bracelets and other trinkets to raise funds for the troops abroad.

The students then chose to promote the Pulaski-based sniper group.

“We thought that it was the most direct possible way to help the troops,” said Brandon Henak, the student group's chairman. “What really touched us and was one of the big deciding factors on choosing them was the fact that they give (the snipers) the very body armor that enables them to stay safe.”

Posted on the “Adopt a Sniper” Web site are thank-you letters from U.S. sharpshooters abroad and a list of items — everything from rifle accessories to knives to Black Hawk strike gear. Supporters can make cash donations or buy a memento such as an Adopt a Sniper Challenge Coin for $15 or an Adopt a Sniper bracelet for $20.

The school ordered the College Republicans to end the fund-raiser Monday.

This apparently was information Public Affairs didn’t want readers to know about, or to know was widely disseminated.

The University also provided a link to the editorial in the Journal-Sentinel supporting the University’s position, but entirely failed to mention that the issue received extended and very negative coverage in Milwaukee talk radio, drawing the attention of Charlie Sykes, Jeff Wagner, and Mark Belling. The issue was also covered on (at least) Milwaukee channels 4, 6 and 58. But there was no mention of that.

Finally, the February 7th edition of “News Clips” provided links to two letters to the Journal-Sentinel. Not surprisingly, both letters favored the University’s position, and attacked the College Republicans.

MU Student Group – letter to editor

Lack of respect shouldn’t be tolerated

I was struck by the sub-headline “Student group calls school ‘ultra-liberal,’” which followed the headline of the Feb. 3 article “MU shuts down ‘Adopt a Sniper.’”

Story appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 7, 2005

MU Student Group – letter to editor

Republicanism doesn’t require support of war

As someone with past links to Marquette University and to some Republicans, I think that the MU College Republicans, and many Republicans elsewhere, are making a huge mistake in suggesting true Republicanism - or patriotism - requires people to support President Bush's occupation of Iraq and the continued killing of hostile Sunnis to ensure Shiite control of Iraq.

Story appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 7, 2005

So what did the flacks at Public Affairs conceal from campus readers?

First, they concealed the extent of the coverage. While they conceded that a few score newspapers ran the story, the only link provided was to the New York Times version that failed to show, as the entire AP story showed, that the “Adopt A Sniper” program has a great deal of merit. No mention of the negative coverage on conservative talk radio was included, and certainly not the fact that Marquette won the Charlie Sykes “Deep Tunnel” award on Friday. Neither was TV coverage – which included a lot of negative comment on Marquette’s decision.

In fact, on Saturday morning the Marquette Warrior Blog queried Google News for “Marquette” and “Republican” and “Sniper” and found 103 stories about the controversy. It ran in media all over the world, including Al Jazeera.

That’s clearly one source that approved of Marquette’s action!

The web was even worse. As of 3:30 this afternoon, Google was showing about 527 hits when queried for “Republicans” and “Marquette” and “University” and “Sniper” for pages updated within the past three months.

[Update, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 9, 2005 -- The same Google search now turns up 1,240 pages.]

It seems that Public Affairs at Marquette, having seen the University embroiled in a public relations fiasco, is engaged in full bore damage control. The most effective kind of damage control, of course, would be to simply admit that the bureaucrats were wrong and apologize to the College Republicans and let them hold their fundraiser some other time.

But the bureaucrats, through a combination of arrogance, insularity and political correctness can’t admit they were wrong. Their PR blunder can’t be concealed from the wider community, but it at least can be concealed from people at Marquette who don’t pay much attention to media beyond the Journal-Sentinel. In sum, the insularity that allowed the Administration to do something as stupid as this may protect them from ever knowing the harm they have done to the University.


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