Lets actually ‘get the facts straight’ Critical Badger

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I really hate to do this. But, at some point being publicly attacked, having your factual integrity questioned, and having a solid and personally important editorial responded to with an overtly condescending “/dur” from a campus fixture necessitates some kind of response.

To recap, Danny S. (aka the Critical Badger) really didn’t like my most recent column in the BH on campus safety, or the column I wrote a year ago that it was a follow up to. It looks like he even hated the first one so much that he failed to read the second one, which, I will admit, was a more complete and responsible column.

Danny sent an email to Jack, Jason Smathers at the Herald, Ald. Bryon Eagon and me titled “Getting facts straight,” where he implied that the facts in my most recent column weren’t correct. You can see his full explanation of this claim on his post at U&S.

This appears to be what he has an issue with in my column:

“In the column, I cited crime statistics from a then recently released Campus Safety Guide to show the miniscule risk violent crime posed to students on campus, in a general attempt to push back against the irrational emphasis being placed on crime in the campaign.

To which he opined at U&S:

Yes, crime literally on the grounds of UW-Madison is generally not a problem. That’s because they happen OFF CAMPUS. Data not included in this report.

Of course, he shouldn’t be so dismissive of the crime dealt with by campus police around campus, because anyone who lives in a dorm falls completely under that category, and it affects a great deal of additional students as well. Pick up a campus map and take a look, there are campus buildings on more than just Bascom Hill.

The shortsightedness of his criticism doesn’t stop there. In a response email I was forced to point out the obvious to him:

You will also notice that I bring in city crime statistics as well. Admittedly, I do not have exact numbers for the few specific streets or the very limited areas where campus and city are blurred. A consolidation of those numbers does not exist that I can find, and I have spent time looking for them, including asking Eagon if he has any.

At any rate, it is somewhat irrelevant. The point of the column wasn’t to calculate the exact risk of crime every student is subject to while living in Madison. It was to use some relevant data to show that safety issues might not be as big of a deal as the candidates were making it out to be. Citing a combination of campus crime stats as well as city stats (considering city stats include parts of the city much less wealthy and safe than the city around campus) seems sufficient to do the trick, while in no way being disingenuous.

Nothing factually inaccurate. No misrepresentation. Not disingenuous. Just an argument you fail to agree with or pick up on.

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11 Responses to “Lets actually ‘get the facts straight’ Critical Badger”

  1. Critical Badger Says:

    The most important thing you leave off this post is that (and I wrote this in my email, to leave it out is curious at best) I write how I agree with the fundamental conclusion you make about crime/safety in Madison. It isn’t as bad as it was in ’05/’06; things are getting better. Of course, you make a bunch of flawed assumptions and now my comment is going to go far beyond the initial intention of my e-mail/post – this will only jumble the discussion.

    The gravest flawed premise is that since crime is down, we need not have policy makers focusing on it. Nay, rather the REASON crime is down is because of substantial efforts and focus given to the issue, many of which stemmed from the leadership of downtown Alders and students. Your logic is backwards. Do you know why Mayor Dave issued the report describing crime as declining? Because the POLICY ISSUES – some that student representatives on this campus OPPOSED – like Operation Blue Net and other Dane County/Madison task forces have been working!

    In addition, you concede at the end of this post you can’t calculate the risk to every student. Of course not, but with a litany of empirical research done by policy makers like Eagon/Judge, and writers such as myself surrounding gang issues, burglaries, unreported crimes, sexual assault, etc. the air of your writing is decidedly unresponsive to the needs the district area. You concede this in your column, but at that point why write in the first place what you could summarize in about 50 words? You’re weakening any significance to the piece. Now it’s a weak, “well, there’s some data that says it’s not bad, but I can’t be too sure!”

    You write about safety: “not be[ing] as big of a deal as the candidates were making it out to be.” Uh… who? What a strawman. Your column is an elementary look at a complex issue; it doesn’t even try to add a layer of sophistication. You throw two statistics together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and viola! Take me seriously, Eagon/Eicher/whoever!

    I’m left to assume you are talking about Eagon. In this case, Bryon Eagon’s extensive safety plan is a beautiful mixture of enforcement policies and social development programs. His intellectual framework for the issue is not that crime is overblown and hysterical, but rather a sensible nuanced approached. He’s the de-facto “voice” of student issues when it comes to crimes and I’d encourage you to do more homework and re-read the introduction to his safety plan. It’s the best document on the subject to date. He straight up rocks the argument people make on the extremes of this debate (crime being hysterical v. crime being “not as big of a deal”).

    On your discussion of crime in the campus area, all I can say is: what? You seem to actually be arguing that crime IS a problem. At the same time, you’re twist what I said to suggest I don’t empathize with people who have crimes committed against them on campus? lolwut? I’m saying there isn’t a crime epidemic in dorms and the fucking dining halls of stolen trays and juice boxes. The larger and important point is how you try to intellectually weave a flawed narrative of crime while citing a statistic that doesn’t prove the conclusion you want. What I mean is that when people like Bryon Eagon talk about “campus safety” they don’t MEAN Sellery Hall; they mean Langdon Street, they mean Mifflin, they mean areas uncovered in that report. So it’s a clever use of “statistics” to advance a conclusion. Of course, even someone with elementary statistics under their belt would know the substantial problems that comes from quoting two independent reports about separate data in an attempt to draw a meta-analysis.

    Last year, when you cited the Campus Safety document, it sat for a year with you trying to pass it off as legitimate research on the state of crime in *Madison*. It didn’t work and I’m glad to see I hit a cord. Another drop in bucket of editorial writers who will aggressively fact check their columns in the future. For that, I commend you.

    As for the rhetoric and other stuff in this post, not really worth my time to out snark a non-agenda setter when it comes to local policy.

    • Alec S Says:

      Wow, man, do you know how arrogant you come off as? I will try to push through it so something can actually be accomplished from this whole clusterfuck.

      The most important thing you leave off this post is that (and I wrote this in my email, to leave it out is curious at best) I write how I agree with the fundamental conclusion you make about crime/safety in Madison.

      Don’t see how that is important. You disagree with my line of reasoning, I am defending it. Whether or not we come to the same eventual conclusion is largely irrelevant in that circumstance.

      The gravest flawed premise is that since crime is down, we need not have policy makers focusing on it.

      Again, did you actually read my op-ed? If you did, you would realize you what you are saying here is simply factually wrong. And I quote: “Again, it isn’t that campus safety isn’t an issue worth talking about in local student elections; it is. It’s just that it isn’t the only issue worth talking about. That is, it is an issue which belongs on a short list, but a short list which includes other equally important issues.”

      In addition, you concede at the end of this post you can’t calculate the risk to every student. Of course not, but with a litany of empirical research done by policy makers like Eagon/Judge, and writers such as myself surrounding gang issues, burglaries, unreported crimes, sexual assault, etc. the air of your writing is decidedly unresponsive to the needs the district area.

      I talked to Eagon, so I have no idea what you are talking about there. Show me this other empirical research, I would love to see it. I do seriously doubt it will be groundbreaking though.

      You write about safety: “not be[ing] as big of a deal as the candidates were making it out to be.” Uh… who? What a strawman. Your column is an elementary look at a complex issue; it doesn’t even try to add a layer of sophistication. You throw two statistics together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and viola! Take me seriously, Eagon/Eicher/whoever

      A lot to talk about here. First, the column was a commentary on the first 2 or 3 months of the campaign, in which campus safety seemed to be the first, last, and most common thing out of every candidates mouth. Your second sentence is completely unjustified conjecture. Where did Eicher come from?

      On your discussion of crime in the campus area, all I can say is: what? You seem to actually be arguing that crime IS a problem.

      Really, I do? I’m pretty sure what I’m doing is criticizing your argument that campus stats are unimportant in talking about crime. Why? Because campus is much more expansive and includes a lot more people than you give it credit. The fact that there is such a minimal amount of crime on such an expansive campus strengthens my argument that the issue shouldn’t receive such an inordinate amount of focus. That shouldn’t be discounted from the analysis of risk to the student population, because it includes a significant portion of it, in addition to constituting an area where even more students spend so much time.

      Last year, when you cited the Campus Safety document, it sat for a year with you trying to pass it off as legitimate research on the state of crime in *Madison*. It didn’t work and I’m glad to see I hit a cord. Another drop in bucket of editorial writers who will aggressively fact check their columns in the future. For that, I commend you.

      Again, your ability to read my thoughts and intentions is impressive, but still utterly wrong. I wrote on this again because the original column was one of my most widely-read columns in the Herald, because the subject is important to me, and because I had already planned to. How do you bring yourself to write shit like “Another drop in the bucket of editorial writers…”?

      As for the rhetoric and other stuff in this post, not really worth my time to out snark a non-agenda setter when it comes to local policy.

      This is pure gold. Thank you.

      • Anonymous Says:

        “This is pure gold. Thank you.”

        That’s what happens when bloggers start taking themselves too seriously.

  2. David L Says:

    Alec S:

    I think you’re not emphasizing enough the logical distinction between crime that takes place on campus and off campus. At hours of the day when crimes in the downtown Madison area increase, tens of thousands of UW-Madison students are no longer in campus facilities or even on campus property. Regardless of crime stats on campus, tens of thousands of UW students are affected by downtown crime issues off campus.

    Moreover, the fact that overall downtown crime is down over the last few years is a positive thing, but not a permanent victory that makes crime into an irrelevant policy concern for the downtown area. Crime is still a serious policy issue for downtown area UW students because tens of thousands of students spend a lot of time off campus at late hours of the day and a downward trend in crime doesn’t mean a safe level of crime – US real GDP is up for 4Q09, but that doesn’t mean the economy is no longer a legitimate US policy issue, GDP is still at a level that sucks.

    • Alec S Says:

      David, I agree across the board (except for the first sentence of course). I guess I don’t see how what you are saying is in any way at odds with what I wrote.

  3. karen Says:

    “Believe me, I do care. That’s why I’ve added more cops than any mayor in recent memory, why in some of the tightest budgets ever I’ve found money to expand neighborhood centers and programs for at-risk youth, and why even in this most recent budget I found a way to expand the Crime Prevention and Gang Unit three-fold.” Even the Mayor agrees with the CB (that’s from his blog post on crime in November making Alec’s story terribly out of date)

    • Alec S Says:

      Don’t see how that makes the column, post, or discussion out of date. Nor do I see the Mayor taking sides on the correct line of reasoning to reach the SAME conclusion both Danny and I reach (his words), which is what is actually at issue in this debate.

  4. Sam Clegg Says:

    With any luck, this argument, which is shaping up to run for a very long time, will make my earlier hissy fit look like chump change.

  5. Seriously? Says:

    “As for the rhetoric and other stuff in this post, not really worth my time to out snark a non-agenda setter when it comes to local policy.”

    It’s these kind of quotes that made me hate the Critical Badger so much back when it ran. The Sconz has been a much more pleasant reading experience thus far, so I’m really hoping these stupid in-fights among Madison campus columnists will end soon.

    No one outside your little group of supposed elites gives a flying fuck about your petty problems, ok? We just want campus news and opinions about campus issues, not opinions about the opinions of people on campus issues, or opinions on who is the most snarky, or the most misinformed, or who has the biggest poli-penis out of the blogging set.

    /rant

  6. Emma R. Says:

    a word of advice, alec – you will never win an argument about CB. from personal experience the best way to get to him is to act civilly for every inch of his crassness, or just to not respond at all.

    hey danny! ;]

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