CONNECTICUT — A Feb. 7 editorial in the student newspaper at Central Connecticut State University that satirically explained the benefits of rape has spurred the university’s president to launch a review of the newspaper’s editorial process.
The opinion article, which the author has said was meant to be a satire, has been a target of widespread ire from the campus community. National media attention has focused on the campus, and in a statement issued Feb. 8, university President Jack Miller proposed a deeper look into The Recorder itself.
“We will in the near future gather a group composed of students and faculty to examine the editorial process and to take positive steps to educate students about the damage such blatantly misogynistic and homophobic content causes,” Miller said in the statement.
The statement does not reveal specifics about the review or the committee that will be conducting it, and a spokesman for the university said the review process is in “the very earliest stages.”
The ordeal originated last week with outcry over the editorial, titled “Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It,” which argues that rape has been a positive force in western civilization and benefits “ugly women.”
Mark McLaughlin, associate vice president for marketing and communications, said Miller told him in a meeting Wednesday that he wants to progress quickly to take advantage of the momentum of the situation.
McLaughlin says he noted during the meeting that any committee comprising faculty members and students might be hard pressed to complete their work with the end of the semester less than three months away.
“I’m not sure much can be done in this time frame,” he said. “It may be better to have more time to reflect, to do some deeper digging.”
Recorder Editor in Chief Mark Rowan said he was concerned that the editorial review, about which he says he has not been consulted, might lead to an infringement of the newspaper’s independence.
“There’s a number of concerns as far as freedom of press and freedom of speech,” he said, adding that he has contacted the advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for information.
Nicholas Pettinico, the university’s vice president for advancement, said he doubts the review will result in any kind of prior review or censorship policy, and in his statement Miller acknowledged previous court rulings that have upheld students’ free press rights.
“We’re very much cognizant of students’ First Amendment rights,” Pettinico said. “By no means is a review process, in any shape or form, looking at censorship.”
Neither Pettinico nor McLaughlin could provide a specific timeline of when the committee would be operational.
The Recorder is a weekly publication and receives $25,000 each semester from the university, almost all of which goes to printing costs.
The author of the editorial, sophomore John Petroski, has since been removed as opinion editor by the newspaper’s editors, though he remains on staff. At a town hall meeting Monday, community members expressed outrage over the column, and some critics have called for Rowan’s resignation.
Rowan, who said he has no plans to resign, said the newspaper erred in publishing the column.
“I’m not going to use free speech to defend it. Never will I do that,” he told CNN. “We made a huge mistake in publishing it.”
In his statement Miller acknowledged the newspaper’s right to publish the satirical editorial, but he questioned the editors’ decision to do so.
“It is a clear violation of responsible journalism and the community standards of this institution … particularly in a campus newspaper largely supported by student fees and intended for the readership of the CCSU community,” Miller said in the statement.
“We need to be sure that students understand that such hateful speech is not protected and simply is not worthy, on any ground, of publication.”
By Brian Hudson, SPLC staff writer