Univ. of Md. paper considers new policy after cartoon incites protests

MARYLAND — Protesters at the University ofMaryland remain dedicated to demanding an apology for a cartoon that ran in thestudent newspaper two weeks ago, despite continued declarations byDiamondback editors that printing it was within their rights asjournalists. The cartoon characterized the actions of an American peaceactivist killed by an Israeli bulldozer as the definition of stupidity. Thecartoon prompted campus groups to organize a sit-in blocking one of theentrances to the newspaper office and caused many administrators to speak outagainst the newspaper’s decision. Editor in chief Jay Parsons said thatwhile the paper has decided to review its policy on opinion page content, noapologies will be made.“We’re standing by thecartoonist’s right to free speech,” Parsons said, adding that thenewspaper has received more than 4,000 e-mails from across the globe since thecartoon was published March 18 and continues to receive them daily. “Whenyou hear from this many people, that gives you pause. We’re not going toapologize for running it, but we may end up changing our policy to somethingthat includes some subjectivity.”The cartoon by University ofMaryland student Daniel J. Friedman showed a woman sitting in front of abulldozer. The word stupidity was listed below with three definitions, the thirdof which said, “Sitting in front of a bulldozer to protect a gang ofterrorists.” The cartoon was a comment on the actions of Rachel Corrie, anEvergreen State College student killed as she tried to stop an Israeli bulldozerfrom destroying the home of a Palestinian physician.Immediately afterthe cartoon was published, several student groups, including the Peace Forum andthe Muslim Students Association, organized a protest. More than 60 staged asit-in in front of the newspaper’s office, blocking access to one of theentrances and forcing staff members to have police escorts when going in and outof the building. Though the sit-in has ceased, Parsons said protesters continueto visit the newspaper office. Raef Haggag, a protest organizer, said he wishededitors had used more discretion.“My personal reaction was verysimilar to hundreds of students, and that was unbelief and outrage,”Haggag said. “The Diamondback has done many things that wedidn’t like in the past, but this clearly crossed theline.”The protesters quickly outlined three demands: an apology;an article about Corrie’s life; and a list of TheDiamondback’s standards of decency. Many administrators also joinedthe fray, condemning Diamondback editors for printing the cartoon. AnnWylie, chief of staff for the University of Maryland President Dan Mote, saidalthough the administration will not demand that editors apologize, she feels itwould be appropriate for an apology to be issued to Corrie’sfamily.“They’re an independent newspaper. They have theright to do what they want,” Wylie said. “Personally, I think theydidn’t understand what they were doing when they did it.”Inaddition to administrators, two university journalism deans also denounced thepaper’s decision to run the cartoon. The criticism has prompted meetingsamong editorial board staff members to review the paper’s policy oneditorials and editorial cartoons. The current unwritten policy allows thatanything not libelous or violence-inciting be printed on the opinion page. When the newspaper revisits the policy, Parsons said the staff will seekadvice from the journalism faculty who criticized them, Dean Tom Kunkel andAssociate Dean Chris Callahan, along with other professors and professionaljournalists. The outcome could range from “the current two-pronged policy,or go as far as defining levels of insensitivity and things liketimeliness,” Parsons said in The Diamondback. The staff hopes toreach a decision next week.Parsons said University of Maryland studentstend to be apathetic about most issues, such as tuition increases and fee hikes.For that reason, he was surprised by the response to the cartoon, which he sayselicited the second biggest organized protest on campus this year.“To see so much passion for this issue is certainlyremarkable,” he said. “It’s a pleasant surprise, becauseit’s important for a newspaper to generate issues that students can debateand to see that students care about something. When I was out there talking toprotesters, I could see passion in their eyes.”Haggag saidprotesters are discussing the organization of an alternative news outlet fornext year. He said in the meantime student groups will publish newsletters withexamples of times The Diamondback went too far in “poking fun atmurder, rape and supporting one-sided views on many issues.”

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