I praise Derrick Z. Jackson for his careful analysis in the Dec. 13 opinion piece, “A great standing hypocrisy in higher education.” However, the important questions raised by Jackson’s piece were undercut by a flawed photo illustration.
Our students at the University of Michigan are individuals rather than suitable illustrations about the structural aspects of college athletics. From Jackson, your readers learned about the context in which student-athletes learn and work, exposing differences between the circumstances of young African-Americans and those of young white men.
These differences were presented in statistical terms, never burrowing into the circumstances of any given student athlete. Yet the accompanying photo featured four young men — current members of the University of Michigan basketball team — and identified them by name. The implication was strong: The young men depicted in the photo were among those who, as Jackson explains, have been admitted to Michigan by way of athletic rather than academic achievements. The piece itself offered no evidence for this, but the photo illustration suggested otherwise.
The young men depicted are students, athletes, and members of our university community. They are individuals with skills and aspirations. It does a disservice to their achievements and their reputations for them to be reduced to illustrations for an analysis that has not examined, and was not intended to examine, their personal circumstances.
The writer is a professor of history, Afro-American and African studies, and law at the University of Michigan.