The column that shouldn’t have run

By on November 18, 2009

The Mirror, the student-run newspaper at Fairfield University, has recently come under fire by the school’s administration for a controversial column that ran Oct. 1.

“He Said: The Walk of Shame,” written by senior Chris Surette, was viewed by many as misogynistic and sexist, and four students brought up harassment claims against the newspaper.

Dean of Students Tom Pellegrino argued that printing this column violated the university’s Code of Ethics and Code of Procedure, placing the newspaper’s funding in jeopardy.

Surette apologized five days after the column originally ran.

As a fellow college newspaper editor, I’d like to support a newspaper in crisis. However, it comes to a point.

I don’t feel the administration has the right to intervene, especially when it comes to one man’s opinion.

But perhaps the newspaper should not have printed the column in the first place.

If an article such as Surette’s crossed my desk, there are four ways I could handle it. I could print it as-is; I could send it back to the writer and tell him to come up with another column idea; I could change his words around to make it sound less abrasive; or I don’t run it at all.

There’s no way I’d ever run it and I’d possibly even punish the writer for thinking that printing something like this was acceptable.

Editor-in-chief Tom Cleary obviously chose to run it as-is, hopefully aware of the controversy it would bring to his publication. I don’t think he expected the administration to get involved or that four students would claim harassment, but comments on the Web site saying, “Chris Surette should be ashamed of himself” or “shame on you Chris Surette” should have been expected.

I hope the newspaper continues to print and they aren’t threatened by the administration any longer. But I also hope the editorial board of The Mirror also learned a valuable lesson from this experience. You can never underestimate that the people reading your words have power.

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