This Tuesday, The Chicago Maroon, an entrenched, establishment University of Chicago student publication, fired conservative columnist Daniel Schmidt for calling out another Maroon columnist’s hypocrisy and publicly challenging her to an open debate. Maroon leadership stated via email that Schmidt’s speech constituted “concerning conduct” that “repeatedly and publicly antagonized a fellow columnist.”
Schmidt’s Colleague Took First Shots, Then Refused to Debate
Schmidt invited his peer and former colleague Irene Qi to a debate in response to a Maroonhit piece Qi wrote about the Chicago Thinker, for which Schmidt also writes, and Professor Rachel Fulton Brown, a UChicago history professor Schmidt says he respects and admires.
In her article, Qi heavily criticized Fulton Brown and the Chicago Thinker team for advocating for an end to UChicago’s anti-science COVID policies. Qi even went so far as to call Fulton Brown both “dangerous” and an “embarrassment” to the university.
Qi specifically attacked the Chicago Thinker and Fulton Brown for discussing the inefficacious nature of masks. As she explained in her piece, Qi has “simply become tired of hearing the same rhetoric of anti-masks, anti-lockdowns, anti-vaccinations, anti-expertise, and so forth that has dominated COVID-19 conversations since March 2020.”
Schmidt told the Thinker that he felt the need to respond to Qi’s article because it was filled with factual inaccuracies concerning people and issues he cares about.
Schmidt Called Out Qi for Hypocritically Partying Mask-less
Schmidt also says he found Qi’s staunch defense of masks to be puzzling, seeing as there are multiple photos, independently verified by the Chicago Thinker, that Qi posted on her Instagram of herself mask-less at crowded parties. After the release of Qi’s piece, Schmidt posted an Instagram story, publicly asking Qi how she can square her pro-mask rhetoric with her anti-mask party pictures. Screenshotting a section of Qi’s article in which she criticizes the Chicago Thinker, Schmidt challenged Qi to a public debate.
Schmidt also posted a screenshot of another student messaging him and telling him that they “would personally love to see a debate.” Schmidt included the caption “The people want it!”
In response, Qi posted screenshots of Schmidt’s posts on her private Instagram page, adding nothing but a series of surprised emojis. Schmidt responded by posting a screenshot of Qi’s post, asking her why she ignored his debate request. Several other students also asked Qi on their public Instagram pages why she would not debate Schmidt.
The Maroon Rescinded Meeting Invite, Firing Schmidt on the Spot
On Monday, the leadership of The Maroon’s opinion section sent Schmidt an email with the subject “[URGENT] scheduling a meeting.” In this email, signed by editors Elizabeth Winkler, Kelly Hui, and Ketan Sengupta, Maroon leadership accused Schmidt of “engag[ing] in concerning conduct towards another columnist” and asked him to meet with them “as soon as possible.” (Hui, a CareNotCops activist, is known on campus for her Maroon article in which she demanded UChicago eradicate its commitment to free speech).
Asked to attend a meeting alone with at least four Maroon leaders, Schmidt requested formal permission to record the meeting on-the-record (Illinois is a two-party consent state).
Rather than grant approval and have a conversation, The Maroon decided to cancel the meeting and terminate Schmidt from his position at The Maroon, effective immediately.
The editors asserted that Schmidt was fired because he “never communicated privately or directly with [his] colleague to try to resolve [his] disagreement in an appropriate and professional manner.” They added that he was dismissed because he “repeatedly and publicly antagonized a fellow columnist by spamming and encouraging others to spam their social media account and [posted] images from their private story without their permission.” However, Schmidt told the Thinker that “the accusation that I encouraged others to spam her social media account is flagrantly false.”
According to the editors, Schmidt violated a policy he previously agreed to follow. Presumably, the editors were referring to the infographic (shown below) that says columnists cannot participate in “anything egregious,” which includes making other columnists “unsafe” and “harming people.” Schmidt told the Thinker that “To the editors of the Maroon, my invitation to debate Qi is as ‘egregious’ as ‘harming people.’ Any sane person would find this ridiculous and assume it to be satire.”
The Maroon Doubled Down, Refusing to Answer Questions
The Thinker asked TheMaroon whether it believes “that inquiring upon potential logical inconsistencies and publicly proposing a debate to a colleague is akin to physically ‘harming people,’ as stated on the infographic where the policy is given.” The Maroon refused to directly answer this question. Instead, it reiterated that Schmidt’s actions (challenging Qi to a debate and pointing out that she went mask-less to crowded parties) were “antagonizing” and a form of “harassment.”
The Maroon refused to tell the Thinker why it has a policy against recording internal disciplinary meetings. It also refused to substantiate its claim that Schmidt encouraged others to spam Qi’s social media account.
“By asking Qi to debate me, I merely extended the public dialogue she started,” Schmidt told the Thinker. “I did so publicly, as I wanted to demonstrate that students like her are unwilling to defend their beliefs after being challenged. The fact that I was unceremoniously fired without a meeting only proves my point.”
Christopher Phillips is a first-year student at the University of Chicago, hailing from Los Angeles, CA. His passions include reading policy books, studying history & geography, and following current events. He believes strongly in American excellence and focusing on the social health of the nation to improve overall prosperity and happiness. Find him on Twitter @chrispthetruth, or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.