'Walk of shame' column prompts protests at Fairfield University

CONNECTICUT — Protests, destruction of newspapers andstudent-government resolutions have unfolded over the past two weeks followingthe Sept. 30 publication of a satirical column about the “walk ofshame” in Fairfield University’s student newspaper, the FairfieldMirror.

The editorial staff released a statementOct. 7 announcing an examination of the use of the “Coffee Break”section of the paper, which includes the “He Said” column by writerChris Surette in question. The Mirror editorial staff announced it would”re-evaluate the use of this section and ensure that, in the future, itwill be used in a positive manner.”

The column, intended to be told from astereotypical college male point of view, used words such as”victim” and “hood rat” and discussed how awoman’s “walk of shame is an induction into your hall offame.”

“We understand that what we wrote mayhave offended people and that was not our goal, and we want to make sure that wefix that,” Mirror Editor-in-Chief Tom Cleary said. “Wedon’t want to offend people with that writing in the future, and we wantto take this as an opportunity to move forward and improve the quality of ourpaper.”

Approximately fifteen protesterscongregated at the Mirror’s office Sept. 30 and expressed theirdissatisfaction with Surette’s take on the “walk of shame” that had been printed in the paper that day. According to Cleary, theprotesters, mostly women, cut the column out of about 140 newspapers, wrote onthem and taped them to the office doors and windows. They then replaced thepapers — sans “walk of shame” column — in the newspaperdistribution baskets.

On Oct. 4, the Fairfield University StudentAssociation (FUSA) Senate passed resolutions in response to the controversyrecommending that “the Fairfield University Administration respond to theaforementioned ‘He Said’ article with the same level of concern andproactive engagement as previous incidents of similar caliber have beenhandled.” In 1984, the university suspended its subscription to the paperafter taking issue with the content of an article.

“As a student body, we thought [thecolumn] was very much in poor taste,” FUSA President Jeff Seisersaid. “Things like that represent our whole community and it reallyaffected and really hurt a lot of people on our campus.”

Four Mirror editors met withprotesters Oct. 5 to discuss how to proceed with the situation. Protesterswanted to rework the “He Said/She Said” columns published in theMirror to make the columnists more accountable for their words and tomake the purpose of the columns more clear.

“You can make it catchy and fun andstill dive into awesome topics that are very college and can still be funny andcan still be a break from whatever, but to have the writer actually own whatthey are saying instead of playing into a stereotype, I think, would create aneven more dynamic dialogue, which seems to be the purpose of the piece,”Sarah Gatti, a spokeswoman for the protesters, said.

Anonymous protesters published a newslettercalled “The Broken Mirror” on Oct. 6 to express their frustrationwith the column. They used the Mirror‘s logo and put the newsletterin the Mirror‘s distribution spots, Clearysaid.Seiser said he hopes the Mirror will apologize for the column and admit wrongdoing. The senateresolutions are meant to convey to the Mirror the opinion of the studentbody.

“As a student body, we are justsaying hey, you made a mistake, here’s a warning. Don’t use thoseracial or sexist slurs again, and let’s move on and have a goodyear,” Seiser said.

Gatti hopes that the Mirror willconsider what it publishes and the way it publishes satire in thefuture.

“I think that we as a student bodyand they as an editorial staff need to be conscious of what we’re puttingout there and why because if we are putting things out there to be inflammatory,then consider people enflamed,” Gatti said.

Fairfield University funds theMirror through a subscription contract. They pay the Mirror $30,000 a year in exchange for 3,500 weekly copies of at least 16 pages for atleast twelve issues a semester. The Fairfield Mirror maintainseditorial independence from the University, Cleary said.