After protests over a potentially offensive issue of The Hoya, Georgetown University’s campus newspaper, more than 100 students turned their anger into constructive ideas for improving the paper and putting it in better touch with the community on Tuesday night.
Students who claimed to be offended by The Hoya’s April Fools’ issue asked questions and gave suggestions to six of the paper’s editors during a panel discussion, according to Hoya Editor-in-Chief Andrew Dwulet.
“At times, many students expressed their anger and discontent, but I do think it was ultimately a good first step,” Dwulet said in an e-mail.
Students offended by The Hoya’s April Fools’ issue staged a sit-in at the paper’s office April 2, according to Dwulet. The joke issue came out March 31.
Alessandra Brown, a senior at Georgetown, was one of the angered students. After she and others met on Thursday to discuss what action to take over the April Fools’ issue, they decided to hold a sit-in and Brown was elected spokesperson for the event. Brown is the president of the Georgetown NAACP, but said she is not speaking on behalf of the organization.
“I personally saw how offensive [the issue] was, and not just to minority groups,” she said.
The issue made derogatory comments about Asians, interracial couples, black people, single mothers on campus and the LGBT community, Brown said.
“It was incredible that they could say so many offensive things in so few words,” she said.
The sit-in began around 11:30 p.m. April 2, while The Hoya staff were preparing for the production of the paper’s Friday issue, Dwulet said. About 60 students from organizations including NAACP, the Black Student Alliance, Georgetown Pride and others, marched into The Hoya office carrying copies of the April Fools’ issue and sat silently in the office for roughly 20 minutes. The Hoya staff continued to work around the protesters, Dwulet said.
“At the very beginning I didn’t exactly know what to do,” he said in a phone interview.
Dwulet offered to take anyone interested downstairs to discuss the issue at hand, but no one responded, he said. After twenty minutes, Dwulet said Brown gave a short statement explaining that a number of different groups on campus were deeply hurt by the contents of the April Fools’ issue.
Dwulet posted an apology on The Hoya Web site Friday, stating that while the issue was only intended as parody, it crossed the line in some instances.
“Our intent was to satirize everything and to publish a joke issue that was just ridiculous,” Dwulet said in a phone interview. “Our intent was never to harm but it doesn’t change the fact that a number of articles were insensitive and over the line.”
Brown feels The Hoya’s April Fools issue was a manifestation of a larger issue, which is students feeling comfortable in making insensitive comments, she said.
“I personally believe that Georgetown has an environmental problem,” Brown said.
Dwulet said he agrees there are broader issues of race and diversity at Georgetown that will now be addressed because of the current controversy.
He said he is looking forward to continuing this dialogue through the meetings he has planned with several additional student leaders.
“We’re really asking ourselves some important and overdue questions, about our organization how well we rep the community, about all those things, so I think that is a good thing,” Dwulet said.
Nora Schauble, a sophomore in AU’s School of International Service, said she thinks Georgetown students may have blown the issue out of proportion by holding the sit-in. A more effective method of communication would have been to speak with the editors or sign a petition, she said.
“I just feel like it’s not appropriate in that situation,” Schauble said.
Sudath Mawatha, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he understood why so many Georgetown students were upset.
“If you discriminate like that, it’s not good,” he said. “Don’t joke about it either.”