Read Vox‘s liveblog coverage of the event here.
Last night, over 200 students squeezed into WGR 201-A to hear six Hoya board members discuss their April Fools’ issue (AFI, from now on), to question the six, and to discuss solutions to what many felt were problems in the community and The Hoya‘s editorial structure that produced an issue which so many student found offensive. Unsurprisingly, the meeting was often heated and chaotic, despite two moderators’ attempts to control the attendants and their tempers.
Hoya Editor-in-Chief Andrew Dwulet (COL `10) kicked off the forum by reading comments he’d written for the occasion. “We can never lose sight of the impact we can have on someone’s life or the community as a whole. Last Tuesday we lost sight of the impact of the words we use,” he said. “Our intentions were only to parody. We did not mean harm. This was not The Hoya‘s ‘tell-you-what-we-really-think’ issue.”
After his comments, students attending the forum began to ask questions of the six Hoya board members present (Dwulet, former EIC Bailey Heaps, Guide Editor Marissa Amendolia, Chair of the Board Max Sarinsky, Boardmember Margaret McLaughlin, and Boardmember Mike Trummel). Todd Olson and Daniel Porterfield were in attendance for the duration of the meeting, along with at least one Jesuit, but none of them spoke.
The Q and A session revealed that the April Fools’ issue was a more collaborative project than normal editions of The Hoya, and the articles therefore bypassed some normal channels of oversight. “I take ultimate responsibility for everything that was published,” Dwulet said, adding that he didn’t think any one Hoya editor saw the entire AFI.
After Hoya panelists said that the issue’s intention was to “poke fun at everything,” tempers in the crowd began to heat up. “Do you think sexual assault something to poke fun at? Do you think that’s funny? Just so we can clarify,” one student asked, referring to the AFI’s fake interview with the “Georgetown Cuddler.”
In the midst of annoyed questions, Hoya board members also explained their decision to make SCUnity Co-Chair Brian Kesten (COL `10) the subject of an AFI article, saying that he was a “visible student leader,” not unlike the GUSA Presidents they’ve poked fun at in the past.
The question and answer session concluded with several students at the forum alleging that the AFI paid attention to issues that normal editions of The Hoya often ignored or downplayed.
From there on out, the forum centered around questions of The Hoya’s membership, journalistic integrity, the possibility of different groups having oversight of Hoya articles. Hoya panelists suggested hosting open meetings, meeting with campus leaders, and said they would have a third party review their coverage of campus issues. This leg of the forum was heavily interspersed with additional criticism of The Hoya, calls for Dwulet’s resignation, and demands that The Hoya release the names of the writers who contributed to the AFI, which Hoya panelists consistently refused to do.
Eventually, the moderators lost control of the discussion, which ceased to be Q and A exchange between the room and The Hoya representatives as it degenerated into a cacophony of angry exchanges between audience members.
“We need concrete stuff and you’re not offering us anything but blabber!” on girl cried. “I would like. To know. And I want you. To write it in your paper what you’re going to do!”
Another student began to cry as she described being extremely hurt by the article which described interacial relationships as “vanilla-chocolate swirl interracial fucking.”
While Dwulet was responding to her, another student interrupted to demand that The Hoya release the names of the AFI writers. At this, most of the room cheered and applauded. The moderators announced that it was 11:00 p.m., when the meeting was scheduled to end, and anyone who wanted to leave could. Nobody did.
Shortly thereafter, student anger peaked when an audience member asked if The Hoya‘s plan for restructuring would resemble affirmative action. Dozens of students yelled “Ouch! Ouch!” repeatedly, a word the moderators had instructed students to use to express feeling offended at another’s comment.
With some pleading and hushing, the moderators managed to bring The Hoya panelists back into the conversation. “Can you please, please tell us what you’re going to do as concrete steps to address these issues in the future?” one asked.
The Hoya speakers agreed that making diverse students feel more welcome at The Hoya and diversity training would need to be part of revamping their structure, but were unanimously opposed to any independent body having oversight or final say on their articles, which students began to suggest more and more as the forum wore on.
Calls for Dwulet and ever for the entire Hoya staff to resign revived.
“I understand we lost credibility but I want to be part of making The Hoya better, I’m being genuine and sincere,” Dwulet said.
The rest of the meeting returned to many of the same questions it had addressed in the beginning. It was clear from students’ comments that many felt that Hoya members understood that they’d offended people but still did not understand why their articles were offensive. At the close of the meeting, around 12:20 a.m., leaders of several student groups stayed behind to discuss the solutions proposed in the meeting with Hoya panelists as the room emptied.