Duke students petition to 'fire' opinion editor after he publishes 'inflammatory' column

Students at Duke University have signed a petition demanding the removal of the student newspaper’s opinion editor after he published an “inflammatory” op-ed entitled “The plight of black America.”

The petition, which currently has over 750 signatures, accuses editorial page editor Jonathan Zhao of demonstrating a “history of publishing inflammatory and ill-conceived pieces in the newspaper.”

Zhao’s duties at The Chronicle include editorial direction of opinion columns, guest columns, and letters to the editor, which according to the petition gives Zhao “considerable--unchecked--discretion over the content that gets published.”

The change.org petition castigates Zhao’s alleged furthering of “racist stereotypes” and “misinformation about an entire group of people--a group of people to which the writer does not even belong.”

Zhao, who is a rising senior at Duke, came under fire after arguing in his column that the hurdles in the way of advancement for “black America” is no longer racism or social injustice.

“Instead of paving a road to prosperity,” Zhao wrote, “the self-defeating economic policies advocated for by the black community are shackles of poverty and disillusionment, miring blacks in a cycle of underachievement and social immobility.”

Duke’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter voiced its concerns about the petition in a letter published last week, arguing that the removal of Zhao would impact the ability of students to freely take part in open dialogue on campus and would set a precedent of removing students from positions simply for having unpopular opinions.

“We believe that such a response could have a negative impact on the ability of students to engage in open dialogue on a campus full of students ranging from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.”

Though the newspaper has not removed Zhao from the editorial staff, editor-in-chief of The Chronicle, Amrith Ramkumar, released a statement last week relieving Zhao of any responsibility over guest columns and letters to the editor. Stating that due to the questions being raised regarding Zhao’s ability to moderate the opinion section fairly, “we have changed the policy regarding guest columns to avoid any appearance of bias in the process—guest columns can now be submitted directly to me.”

Ramkumar declined request for a comment from Campus Reform.

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