MADISON (WKOW) -- Badger Herald leaders decided Friday not to pull a controversial advertisement in the UW-Madison student newspaper with a link to a Holocaust denier's website.
The newspaper's board of directors have defended the decision to place the ad, stating its presence did not qualify to be rejected by newspaper ad rules, and that students were thoughtful enough to reject its message. But students, professors and other on campus have called on the newspaper to discontinue the ad as blatantly false.
"There are a lot of students who are very hurt by this," said Abram Shanedling, a recent UW-Madison grad who is Jewish.
The Herald staff says it did not know what the ad was for, but now that it does, the paper stands by its decision to keep it up.
"We're cognizant of the large [Jewish] population on campus and we knew it was going to affect them, and we had faith in them because they're so strong to rise up and denounce it," said Herald publisher Nick Penzenstadler, who called the ad's purchaser a "whackjob" who still deserves the right to free speech.
According to the Jewish Hillel Foundation on campus, the paper's decision is hurting the entire university.
"Prospective families have called me and said, 'I don't know if I should send my child to school at Wisconsin,'" said Greg Steinberger, executive director of Hillel. "People are much more upset, much more hurt now, and that's because of the Herald [and its decision to keep the ad]. That has nothing to do with a professional anti-Semite. It has all to do with their deciding or not deciding how to run their business.
Penzenstadler says having the ad out there creates an opportunity for debate.
"We realize it's caused a lot of pain and a lot of people are angry about it, but overriding that is kind of a net-positive that we have with people talking about it and rejecting it wholesale and acknowledging that these people exist," he said.
Penzenstadler says the paper would not accept an ad for the KKK, because the group is known for inciting violence and targeting individuals, which he says the Holocaust-denier website does not do.
"It's unconscionable. Essentially the paper was used by a professional anti-Semite and they became a place to amplify that terrible hatred," said Steinberger.
"There's a difference between providing someone with the opportunity to speak and giving someone a microphone to speak," said Shanedling. "You've got freedom on one hand and ethics on the other. And he sided with freedom and not responsibility to his campus community."
The Hillel Foundation wants the paper to admit there was a mistake and apologize, neither of which has happened yet.
According to Hillel, a number of its students and faculty have received spam emails with threats and anti-Semitic comments, but the paper is standing its ground and plans to run the ad through its schedule date, March 17.