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.
Read Vox‘s coverage of the Tuesday night forum here.
Many of you have been asking where to find this year’s Hoya April Fools’ issue online. Finally, you can.
For starters, The Hoya posted it as a PDF last night, (which to my knowledge they have never done before with an April Fools’ issue), but those interested in why people were so offended by The Hoya‘s issue might want to view the articles here, where the Facebook group entitled “The Hoya: Discrimination Is Not A Laughing Matter” has scans of 24 articles from the issue with their offending passages underlined.
They’ve also annotated each article with relevant commentary (“‘Ryan Westen’ is a pseudonym for Brian Kesten, who is the Chairman/Founder of the Student Commission for Unity, a research and advocacy group of students addressing diversity issues at Georgetown”) for your benefit. (They also gave Vox Populi a lot of link love—thanks guys!)
Hopefully, their annotations will prevent future news fails like the one perpetrated by a certain Wonkette-turned-newswriter, whose first mistake was assuming that “Ryan Westen” was either a nom de plume or “was just ‘in character,’ portraying a very, very stupid ignorant idiot.” Whoops.
The students were among those who found the issue offensive and discriminatory. According Jodi Callendar (MSB `09), one of the students attending, DeGioia said during the meeting that he would address the Georgetown student body within the next few days, and is willing to host a town hall in response to student concerns (Disclosure: Jodi was formerly the head of business for the Voice, but we’re not playing faves—students from other groups involved with these issues referred Vox‘squestions to Callendar).
DeGioia plans to initially address the student body in a broadcast email. Plans from other administrators’ offices are still unclear. In an email, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson told Vox:
“We have heard from a number of people – students, staff, and parents. We have spoken with student leaders of The Hoya, and we are following up on the matter.”
In their meeting with DeGioia, Callendar said that the students explained “that this wasn’t just a black issue or a homophobia issue, that students are pretty generally pissed off.” The students represented a diverse set of student groups, including GUPride, NAACP, the United Feminists, the Protestant Student Forum, SCUnity, Black Student Alliance, the Carribean Culture Circle, MEChA, and the Solidarity Committee.
DeGioia, Callendar said, “seemed genuinely concerned, and I say ‘seemed’ because depending on who you ask …. But in my opinion he was genuinely upset that the Georgetown the students there saw wasn’t the one he knew and loved.”
DeGioia’s thoughts on student media oversight, after the jump.
Read Vox‘s coverage of the Tuesday night forum here.
Correction: Tonight’s meeting in Reiss is still geared toward a discussion of recent acts of vandalism on campus. The students planning it merely expect for The Hoya’s April Fools’ Day issue to come up in conversation.
Tomorrow, The Hoya will host a forum in WGR 201-A at 9:30 p.m. Six of its board and staff members will speak there, and I’ll update when details come out in the broadcast email. Over the weekend, their board voted to discuss these proposals at the meeting:
Commissioning a report on culture of The Hoya, carried out by third-party group, that seeks to see how The Hoya represents the community in its coverage and to assess The Hoya’s working environment and provide suggestions for improvement
Strengthen journalism training for writers and editors
Hosting public forums each semester to solicit reader commentary on the campus issues that semester and evaluation of The Hoya’s coverage of those issues
Create stronger feedback mechanisms for The Hoya, including regularly engaging in dialogue with campus leaders
Having open office nights for interested participants to experience production night at The Hoya in order to better understand how stories progress
The Hoya‘s now-infamous April Fools’ Day issue caused a lot of angry vocalization last week, and even prompted a sit-in of over 40 students in TheHoya‘s office following an emotional and indignant town hall which at least 100 students plus a Jesuit and several faculty attended.
(Asked if the University was preparing a statement about The Hoya‘s April Fools’ Day issue, spokesperson Julie Green Bataille referred me to Olson’s office. Check back later for their response.)
When it convenes again after Spring Break, the GUSA Senate will undoubtedly join the fray, perhaps by passing a resolution that GUSA Senator Nicholas Nelson-Goedert (COL `10) drafted over the weekend (full text after the jump).
In the email in which he announced to several student organizations that he would be introducing his resolution, (curiously, Nelson-Goedert told me he hasn’t yet informed the whole GUSA Senate), he also said he was working on legislation that would make “students’ actions while on a newspaper endorsed by the University” subject to Student Code of Conduct.
So is this GUSA Senator pursuing disciplinary action?
This afternoon, GUSA’s Tyler Stone (COL `09) emailed the GUSA Senate to announce that he was resigning as Senator. (Full disclosure: Stone was at one time a Voice staff member).
“At this point in my Georgetown career, and with graduation hovering a month away, I have little stomach left for political posturing,” he wrote. He went on to write that while many GUSA Senators do treat GUSA as a resume-padder, he felt that campus media often shortchanged GUSA when it “manages to crank out an accomplishment or two-Summer Fellows, for example-that decisively betters the student experience at Georgetown.” (He also weirdly intimated that newspapers led “ineluctably to a hostile takeover by the Student Commission for Unity,” which I don’t get. Thoughts, anyone?)
Stone resigns with just two GUSA Senate meeting left to go this year. According to the Voice’s GUSA-savvy Lillian Kaiser, at the last meeting, Senator Tim Swenson (SFS `11) adamantly called for Stone’s resignation, citing a poor attendance record. Stone, Kaiser tells me, hasn’t attended a meeting since mid-February (or, since he was prominently featured into Kaiser’s cover story, which explored GUSA’s “bro culture”).
Last night, at least 40 students who found themselves deeply offended by The Hoya’s April Fool’s issue staged a sit-in in The Hoya’s Leavey office. Several DPS officers monitored the scene. Hoya staff members did not have official comments about the sit-in, but two senior members of The Hoya said they did not have knowledge of any of their staff calling DPS and said the protest lasted from about 11:20 p.m. to midnight.
The sit-in followed an “emergency town hall” which over 100 students attended, including GUSA President Calen Angert (MSB `11) and VP Jason Kluger (MSB `11), a few faculty members, and at least one Jesuit. The event was publicized on Facebook under the group name “The Hoya: discrimination is not a laughing matter,” and the group currently has 271 members.
The individual comments from the town hall are confidential, but in general students said they were very offended by articles in The Hoya’s April Fool’s issue that they found racist, discriminatory, sexist, and dismissive of important campus issues. Many students expressed anger that The Hoya targeted individual students and said they felt The Hoya has a history of printing offensive content in its April Fool’s issues. Many also called for its Editor in Chief, Andrew Dwulet, to resign.
The Hoya has its “proud” tradition of turning out a lame April Fool’s Day issue every year (this year’s best misguided attempts at humor were a charming fake interview with the “Georgetown Cuddler”—you do realize he doesn’t just cuddle, right?—and some good-old-fashioned stereotyping, re: the Japanese foreign exchange student named “Takataka Warazaka”). The Voice has no strict April Fool’s Day pranking traditions of its own—but that just makes things more interesting.
After an initial late-night attempt to “redecorate” their office failed, a group of intrepid Voicers celebrated April Fool’s Day in The Hoya‘s office at the crack of dawn. Below, what some tape, extra copies of the Voice, and about 2,000 bendy straws can do.
Unfortunately, that’s where The Hoya chose to draw the line last week. Guide editor Marissa Amendolia (COL ’11) said that she and The Hoya‘s upper management collectively decided to cut Hannah’s original column submission from the Friday Guide because she hadn’t handled the topic of oral sex to their liking. (Hannah didn’t submit a replacement column in time for publication although Amendolia invited her to).
The problem, Amendolia confirmed, wasn’t that the column was graphic. Hannah’s column wasn’t anything like the blow-by-blow of a blowjob that you might expect a rejected oral sex column to be. Rather, Hannah wrote about oral sex etiquette—and that just didn’t jive with the rest of her ouvre, according to Amedolia.
“We felt it didn’t reflect what she wanted to do with her column. She’s created a really successful column based on commentary on dating and trends at Georgetown,” Amendolia said. “This one had advice and tips and etiquette and it wasn’t really consistent with the voices in her other columns.”
Amendolia said she and The Hoya‘s Editor in Chief and Executive Editor didn’t make their decision with reader reaction in mind, and that there aren’t any topics that are categorically verboten for their columnists to write about.
“At the beginning of the semester, we decided to take it column by column,” she said. “Having a sex column is something we always have to be careful about.”
The Hoya declined to hand over a copy of the article—go figure.
Photo taken from Flickr user Emily T Elliot under a Creative Commons license.