CONNECTICUT — Editors and advisers of Fairfield University’s student newspaper,the Fairfield Mirror, are working with Fairfield’s administrationto evaluate newspaper policies after a controversial opinion piece on the “walk of shame” was printed Sept. 30.
The piece was intended to be a satire on the “walk of shame,”but words used in the story like “victim” and “hood rat”sparked controversy at the school. It was published as part of the “HeSaid” column series, which is meant to offer humorous insights on collegelife from a stereotypical male student’s point of view.
After the article ran, editors of the Mirror received a letter fromAssociate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students ThomasPellegrino informing the members of the Mirror they had until Nov. 9 tocomply with a series of requests to evaluate the paper before the Mirrorrisked its financial contract with the university. According to MirrorEditor-in-Chief Tom Cleary, Pellegrino requested the Mirror update itscode of procedures, create an oversight system to make sure the code is followedand give an evaluation of the advisory structure of the paper.
On Oct. 21, Cleary met with Pellegrino, Mirror adviser FranSilverman, former Mirror adviser James Simon and Senior Vice Presidentfor Academic Affairs Fr. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. According to Cleary, the groupdetermined that prior review of the paper by the administration would not beinitiated.
“We discussed the issue of advisement and it was made clear that theUniversity, especially Fr. Fitzgerald, does not believe in pre-publicationapproval,” Cleary wrote in an e-mail.
The administration and representatives of the Mirror are lookinginto forming an advisory board for the paper. Potential members of the boardinclude alumni, faculty, students, administrators and local journalists, saidSimon and Cleary. Cleary added that the board would only be able to makerecommendations to the Mirror and would not have power over editorial orpersonnel decisions. Both Cleary and Simon described the potential advisoryboard as a “buffer” between the Mirror and the school.
“I’ve reached the point where I think the Mirror shouldhave the kind of advisory board that many college newspapers operateunder,” Simon said. “I think it’s a mechanism to both teachstudents based on the experience of alumni and professionals in the field whomight be on the board. It can also be a place where complaints might be routedinstead of through the student judicial process.”
Cleary said he has not yet discussed with administrators what will happenif they do not approve the evaluation and that he does not expect they willreject it.
“I don’t think it’s really going to really get to thatpoint,” Cleary said. “I think at this point we’ve had somediscussions and we’ve pretty much worked out what we’re going to sayand they are going to accept it for what we think.”
Although the possibility of the university canceling its contract with thepaper has been mentioned, Cleary does not think the situation will escalate tothat point.
“I think everything’s pretty much smoothed over at thispoint,” Cleary said. “We’ve had a few positive meetings and Ithink we’re both ready to move forward and use this as a learning moment,a teaching moment. I think it’s gone well.”
Simon also said he does not expect the university to cancel itscontract.
“Anytime there’s a threat to undo a contract, you have to beconcerned, but we seem to be moving into a period of stability right now, andI’m confident the administration will leave the contract in place,”Simon said.