The Daily Athenaeum’s List of Influential People is All-White and All-Male

So yesterday the Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s official school newspaper, had an article on the front page of their paper  listing the “Top 5 Most Influential Persons of 2013.”

Gee, I wonder who is #1?

Gee, I wonder who is #1?

The list includes outgoing WVU President Jim Clements, Student Body President Ryan Campione, baseball coach Randy Mazey, Athletic Director Oliver Luck, and Mountaineer Mascot John Kimble. As you might be able to tell, the list is very white and very male and very sports-oriented. Rightfully so, people had a problem with this.

It all started when someone from WVU’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion called out the DA’s list on Twitter.

In case you hadn’t noticed already, @paigelav points out the issue.

But there’s so much more than that:

And the internet has a field day.

The user on the Office’s Twitter then offers an alternative list.

Some of the choices are stellar:

Franklin D. Cleckley is a professor at the WVU College of Law who graduated with a Master of Laws from Harvard. He was the only African-American to sit on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals from 1994-1996.

Frances Silva is a senior forward on the WVU’s Women’s Soccer Team. She was the 2013 Big XII Offensive Player of the Year and led the team to victory in the Big XII Championship (the only championship WVU has won this year, so far.)

Brian Jara is a faculty member in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. It looks like he’s published some papers this year and presented them at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Cincinnati.

– Deb Beazley is a Senior Program Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention at the Health Sciences Center. She’s been teaching sexual assault prevention classes since ’98 and coordinates High Expectations, an experiential learning program for students cited for drug or alcohol abuse.

– Elaine McMillion is an award-winning documentary storyteller who graduated from WVU’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Her most recent project, an interactive documentary called Hollow, explores the issues of rural Appalachia through the eyes of people living there.

– Narvel Weese is WVU’s Vice President for Administration and Finance. Weese oversees the University’s finances, facilities, human resources – basically everything involving WVU funds. 2013 has been a busy year for him, considering WVU’s recent expansions and growing pains.

– Ruth Kershner oversees Student Affairs for the School of Public Health and teaches in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her bio says she’s presented at local, state and national conferences on issues of health concerns and violence in the lives of women.

What’s true is this – when it comes to most visible, everybody on the DA’s list is well-known. I’m only familiar with one person on the suggested list, but the beauty of a top-5 list is the chance to recognize less-visible people who have made an impact. Although he’s an influential guy who deserves it, Clements has gotten enough limelight already.

While people are quick to point out the “WASP-y” nature of the DA’s list, think about the circumstances influencing the editors. I assume the list was put together late at night, which is validated by the clear typo in Ryan Campione’s name. Do you make quality work when you’re on a deadline? It’s also not surprising the list is sports-centric, considering the influence of the DA’s sports editors. They must have influence – why else would the paper spend thousands to send reporters to away football games when our own band can’t attend?

These circumstances don’t justify the DA’s monochromatic, single-sex list (nothing will) but they do explain it. Hopefully the feedback will give the editors pause. They’re funded by WVU student fees, an oft-fleeting source of income for school papers, and could make the DA a national-award-winning paper like it used to be. Now they just make national headlines for gaffes.

Edited, 12:16 AM 12/11 – Full disclosure – I worked at the DA for two years. I left in April.

Edited, 12:26 AM 12/11 – Sourced some data about student newspaper budgets after being challenged. Also fixed some typos and style.


3 thoughts on “The Daily Athenaeum’s List of Influential People is All-White and All-Male

  1. You all need to realize that not everything that is posted comes with a hurtful intention. Did you ever think that these are just the most influential people on the school’s campus? Could it be possible that the people who work for this paper shoot a lot of sporting events and see these people being influential in action? Don’t take everything so negatively. It should not be the job of the paper to seek out the needs of EVERY group on campus. From what I see, this is the SCHOOL NEWSPAPER. I really don’t think that they are even allowed to racially discriminate against anyone through the paper or anything they post.

    Next time something like this is posted, it is best if you keep it off of twitter and other social media. How do you think that the people named in this article as one of the top five most influential people feel? If I were one of them, I would feel slightly offended and feel that some people thought I was not worthy of the title “Top Five Most Influential People”. It’s great that you all are passionate about your group, but put others’ feelings before yourself.

  2. “Jon,”

    I agree with almost everything you’ve said in your comment, so I think we’re having a bit of a misunderstanding. Yes, I do believe the people who made the list are covering sports and see those influential people in action, which is exactly what I said above:

    “It’s also not surprising the list is sports-centric, considering the influence of the DA’s sports editors.”

    The people who are really upset with the article are listed in the tweets. I’m merely voicing their opinion, and from what I can tell, there’s a lot of people who agree with them. I wanted to point out that trend.

    And while I appreciate your advice that we should keep this sort of thing off social media, social media is how we’ve been able to reach the community and our readers. We can’t stop now.

  3. As someone who always listens and gives a chance to every side of an issue, this post is so dramatic. As you, a former DA editor, know, we do in fact perform quality work on a deadline, in reference to your question above. And it was not the intention of anyone at the DA to make the list “WASP-y,” so this post is really quite irrelevant, lol. Just saying 🙂

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