Chancellor, student government condemn N.Y. paper for running cartoon

NEW YORK — Syracuse University’s student newspaper,The Daily Orange, was heavily criticized this week followingthe Feb. 11 publication of a cartoon that many on the campus deemedas a racist stereotype. The outrage has brought a public censurefrom the university’s chancellor and talk among student governmentofficers of banning the paper from campus.

The drawing, called “Posthumously,” showed a burglar witha black face and white lips climbing through a shattered livingroom window while brandishing a crowbar. The paper’s editor, TitoBottitta, has apologized for the cartoon, as have the cartoonists,freshmen Matt Cohen and Devin Tanchum. Despite their apology,Cohen and Tanchum have insisted that the character was intendedto be wearing a ski mask.

"There was never any thought in our minds that it couldbe anything other than a ski mask," Tanchum told The Post-Standard,a local newspaper. "If anything, it’s a stereotype of criminals."

The incident is not the first for Syracuse’s student newspaper.Several cartoons in recent years, including a white-lipped, bug-eyedrendering of the school’s black student government president in1999 — a caricature that sparked a 200-person protest in frontof the newspaper office — have led some students to nickname thepaper "The Daily Oppressor."

That moniker was written on flyers that were passed out atseveral locations Monday. On Tuesday, a public forum was heldwhere students questioned Daily Orange staff members.

The controversy in the paper’s history may be one reason thestudent-run governing body is getting involved.

At Monday’s meeting, student government members drafted a resolutionthat asked for a written apology for the cartoon and urged theuniversity’s chancellor to prevent the paper from being distributedon campus. The resolution is currently in committee.

Two days later at a student government meeting, ChancellorKenneth A. Shaw issued a statement about the controversy.

"I am troubled by the tone being set by certain sectionsof The Daily Orange, and I believe it is time that we,as a university, begin to think about the implications of whatcan be perceived as occasionally sexist and/or racist cartoons,"Shaw said.

In addition to apologizing for the cartoon, Bottitta gave thepaper’s art director, Jeff Passetti, a written and verbal warning,placing him one strike away from being fired, according to aDaily Orange article. The Post-Standard reported thatCohen and Tanchum’s drawings will be forbidden from appearingin the paper for one year.

The Daily Orange, coincidentally, had adopted a stricterpolicy toward comics just one day earlier. At a meeting on Sunday,editors required cartoonists to sign a contract agreeing not todraw racist or sexist content. The “Posthumously” strip wasa late pick to replace another cartoon editors had determinedwas racist. The paper’s management said they were not shown thecontroversial illustration before the paper went to print.

The problems for The Daily Orange come one month aftera similar incident at Texas A&M University. A Jan. 14 cartoonin that school’s student daily, The Battalion, was lambastedfor caricaturing two black characters. The paper eventually apologizedfor the cartoon.

Read our previous coverage.Texas A&M U. newspaper apologizes for cartoon News Flash, 1/29/02