As the first new feature of the upcoming semester’s Vox, we’d like to turn the admonishing finger of the fourth estate towards certain Georgetown figures who have been thrust into the news for less-than-admirable reasons.
Online political gossip mag Wonkette has recently found itself in the midst of an extensive scandal after writer Jack Stuef (COL ’10) posted an anti-Sarah Palin screed focusing heavily on her disabled three-year old son, Trig. (Note: the post has since been removed and replaced by an apology notice from the editors.)
About one year ago, Georgetown University’s Media Board issued five sanctions against The Hoya for its 2009 April Fools’ Issue. One of the sanctions directed The Hoya to pay for a third-party review of the newspaper by someone with a background in professional journalism, whom the Media Board would select. (Another sanction notably halted The Hoya‘s independence process by another school year, and for financial reasons, The Hoya will continue to remain a part of the University for the next school year, Voice news has reported.)
Media Board selected Dr. Byron P. White, the associate vice president community engagement of Xavier University, who was at one time the senior manager of community relations for the Chicago Tribune, editor of the Tribune‘s Urban Affairs Team, and a member of its editorial board, to review The Hoya‘s situation after the April Fools’ Issue.
This January, he submitted his conclusions, along with 18 suggestions for the improvement of the paper, to the administration, including suggestions to “broaden the pool of candidates for senior editor consideration beyond The Hoya staff”; “create an editor exchange program with publications that have more diverse staffs”; “assign editorial staff to routinely explore the ‘campus vibe’”; and “create an editorial advisory board” made up of faculty and student leaders who would meet with key editors twice a semester to discuss The Hoya‘s coverage of campus issues.
His recommendations, Hoya Editor-in-Chief Marissa Amedolia (COL ’11) said, also include many things that The Hoya was already trying to do to increase its staff’s diversity and improve its coverage of campus issues. (Read more in this week’s Voice News).
“We never dismissed any of his recommendations,” she said.
Chair of the Board Kevin Barber (COL ’11) added, “Nothing’s off the table.”
However, The Hoya seems unlikely to implement some of White’s more surprising recommendations, like his recommendation that the Editor in Chief be selected from outside The Hoya, or by a board independent of The Hoya.
“With the perspective of being on staff, knowing the history of the paper, and what works best for us,” she said, they probably will not implement those changes. She and Barber stressed again, however, that nothing was off the table, and that some of these more surprising recommendations had sparked some of the best discussions their staff had about White’s recommendations.
Writing, “The April Fool’s issue did tremendous damage to The Hoya’s credibility and exposed several underlying organizational weaknesses,” White concluded that “deliberate and sweeping steps must be taken to overcome these shortcomings. [M]any already have been initiated by The Hoya staff, Georgetown’s administration, and the university’s student body.”
After the jump is an abridged version of each of White’s recommendations, along with a full copy of the report he submitted to the University about the effects of the April Fools’ Issue.
Heckler Editor-in-Chief Jack Stuef (COL ’10) answered questions and tried to explain his point of view on a recent controversial Heckler issue at a forum Tuesday night, while students debated the articles and expressed why they were offended by the satirical articles.
Copies of the Heckler’s article about Hoya staff members holding a Ku Klux Klan-like crossburning were passed out before the forum, and much of the conversation centered on that article.
“The KKK isn’t funny,” Stuef said. “The article is to take the situation to the extreme, to show what is maybe buried in this campus.”
Stuef said that he was sorry for offending anyone, but added that with satire, offending people “comes with the terrain.”
LaMarr Q. Billups, Georgetown’s Assistant Vice President for Business Policy Planning, argued that the Heckler should not have used the picture of a KKK crossburning for the article because its hurtful power.
“This is an image that is deeply rooted in our souls,” Billups said. “In my own lifetime, thousands of people were lynched. Cross were burned in people’s actual yards.”
Tonight, recent issues of the student satire magazine Georgetown Heckler will be the subject of a student forum planned by students who have found some of its content offensive. Jack Stuef (COL ’10), the Heckler‘s editor, told the Voice last night that he planned to attend, too.
“I haven’t really planned this out yet, but obviously I’ll try to explain who we are and where we’re coming from because I think there’s a lot of confusion as to who the Heckler is and what our point is,” he said.
“I stand behind everything I’ve ever printed and everything I’ve ever written at the Heckler and I’ll continue to do that at the meeting. And I’ll try to explain where I’m coming from and hopefully there will be some understanding.”
The forum will take place in White Gravenor 201A at 8:30 p.m.
Chair of the Working Group on Admissions Ryan Wilson, who is the incoming Chair of the Student Commission for Unity, said the latest Heckler warranted discussion because it had gone too far.
“I think the Heckler missed the mark,” Wilson said. “While the paper strives to give insightful and intelligent commentary on different campus articles, the articles they’ve written over the last couple of months haven’t really done that.”
“Why is the only context for discussing race found in humor or satire at Georgetown? Why does so much satire at Georgetown target victims of hate crimes, discrimination, sexual assault or injustice?”
Those questions will be the subject of a forum to be held tomorrow night in the ICC at 8:30 p.m., which Student Commission on Unity Founder Brian Kesten (COL ’10) has organized in response to the latest issue of the satirical student-run Georgetown Heckler—which lampooned The Hoya in light of its controversial 2009 April Fools’ Issue, the Black Student Alliance—and other campus satire. Here’s the Facebook event.
“Possible topics may include: articulating the problem, discussing what should change, deciding what we should do now and next semester,” the event description said.
Kesten and many SCU members were involved in the overwhelming student response to the 2009 HoyaApril Fools’ Issue, which many students charged contained stereotypes and content offensive to minorities and made light of sexual assault.
In case ourcoverage of the Hoya‘s delayed independence (not to mention their news story, editorial and letter from the editor) left you confused about the Media Board’s logic, Vox has some of the memos that show the Media Board’s reasoning behind their sanctions.
First, we have the memo Director of Student Programs Erika Cohen-Derr sent on behalf of the Media Board to the leadership of the Hoya on April 22 announcing their sanctions:
According to emails obtained by the Voice, in mid-April the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action filed a complaint with Media Board, the funding board that oversees student media, over the Hoya‘s April Fools Issue. On April 22, Media Board issued sanctions, including a one year delay of the Hoya‘s planned independence.
The Hoya appealed Media Board’s ruling, citing their unwillingness to remain tied to the University, but their appeal was denied on June 16, documents show. A three person appeals board composed of Father Christopher Steck, S.J., GUSA President Calen Angert (MSB ’11), and Faculty Senate President Wayne Davis decided that Media Board had acted within their rights and that the ruling should not be overturned.
The Voice will have more information in our Friday issue.
Hidden among the nine (and counting) University emails that assailed undergraudates’ inboxes this evening was a message from President Degioia expressing his regret over the recent acts of vandalism around campus and The Hoya‘s divisive April Fools’ issue. Just like we said!
Writing, “I would like to be clear in stating that it is unacceptable for any member of our community to be subjected to harassing or discriminatory conduct or behavior. We can and must do better,” DeGioia announced that he will hold a community meeting on Monday, April 20th at 5:00 in the ICC Auditorium. There, he will “[share] thoughts on some of the steps we can all take together—as students, faculty and staff—to build a more welcoming and inclusive community.” He also may or may not have issued a veiled thank-you to the SCUnity team for their research.
In other Hoya news, Hoya members will discuss which of the community’s suggestions from last Tuesday’s forum they will try to incorporate into their structure (like getting better community feedback and staying more in-touch with community issues). Their board will vote on these suggestions late tomorrow night, and Voice News will have the whole story on Thursday.
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.