The Cavalier Daily’s managing board pulled two stories from Wednesday’s edition mid-morning and publicly apologized.
The issue raised questions about the role of satire in public debate, and the extreme divisiveness of certain topics, such as race, with some asking whether no one could laugh at anything anymore, and others asking how students could write something so offensive.
One piece, “ABC agents tackle Native American student outside Bodo’s Bagels,” was intended to parody the aggressive enforcement of potential alcohol violations.
But the arrest last month of U-Va. student Martese Johnson, who was apparently bloodied by officers after he resisted arrest for trying to enter a bar, had become for some the latest symbol in a heated national debate over police violence and racism.
Some over-the-top Native American names didn’t help soothe any feelings, either.
In an apology published online Wednesday afternoon, the paper’s managing board members wrote that they understood that Johnson’s arrest was traumatic for him and for the community:
“In the days that followed, as we at the paper sought to comprehend what happened and provide the community with constructive reporting, we have felt upset, angry and confused alongside the student body. We are embarrassed that our empathy for these immensely serious issues was undermined by this piece.”
Another story, “Zeta Psi hosts ‘Rosa Parks’ party” was intended to poke fun at a fraternity that had generated some backlash from the Muslim community for hosting a “Bombs Over Baghdad”-themed party, at a time when fraternities are under particular scrutiny. At the time, fraternity members explained they were just fans of the hugely popular Outkast song of that name. But using another Outkast song – “Rosa Parks” – in the satire story struck exactly the wrong note for many at a time on campus when racial tensions are raw.
“Our intention was not to perpetuate stereotypes, but to highlight the offensive nature of these themed parties in the past. Again, our readers were hurt by this piece, and that makes its publication inexcusable,” the paper’s apology read.
Julia Horowitz, the editor of the Cavalier Daily, said Wednesday afternoon that she has been encouraging everyone with concerns to come talk to her in the newspaper office Wednesday night or call her. “I sincerely apologize to all those who were hurt by these articles,” she said. “The intent of satire is to bring the community together through humor. We obviously fell incredibly short of that today.”
Abraham Axler, the president of the student body, said, “Although it was intended as satire, the Cavalier Daily should have had a greater level of discretion when they were printing it. …
“I’m not against satire. I understand the importance of satire to make political points. The focus was misplaced in this article.”
The paper’s other parodies – such as a story about Axler’s hostile takeover of U-Va. president Teresa Sullivan’s role, which poked fun at the school’s emphasis on student self-governance, a very public leadership crisis in the recent past and the embattled mentality that has saturated campus during an incredibly traumatic year – remained online.
“’I am the State,’ he said. ‘There is no room for negotiation at this time.’
“… Axler also announced he will be annexing Sweet Briar College.”
At colleges across the country, students and staff members dropped all the seriousness of midterms and a too-long winter and rattled off pieces like that one — some cutting, some offensive to readers, some really dense inside jokes, some delightfully silly.
“After a myriad of unsuccessful attempts to tweak or otherwise modify tailgating policies toward the end of the football season, University officials decided to, instead, eliminate tailgating from Towson’s campus.
“The policy begins with tailgating at football games. Any pregame activities in the parking lots will be shut down immediately,”
“Any students with pickup trucks will not be allowed to lower their tailgate to load or unload anything into/from their truck. To enforce these new rules, TUPD will be traveling between parking lots and parking garages over the coming week to weld shut any and all pickup truck tailgates …
“If anyone on campus is seen driving within 10 feet of another car, TUPD will be handing out fines of up to $50.”
Duke officials couldn’t resist writing about the campus’ loneliest employee, the (let’s hope!) fictional Office of Information Technology employee Augie Schweiber
“When he isn’t helping to archive Duke’s historic storage backup systems, he’s coming up with OIT-related jokes to hopefully tell someone, someday.
‘Why is Duke OIT like the best-run restaurant in town?’ Schweiber asked, waiting a few beats longer than needed to deliver the punchline.
‘Because it has excellent servers.’
“For example, if visitors were to park in the Bryan Center Garage and wanted to get to the Allen Building, they would first want to leave the garage and walk southwest toward the Bryan Center before reaching the ground-level doors for the building. There, they would go upstairs and through the University Store, where they would exit onto The Plaza and take a left toward Page Auditorium before taking another left to go around the back of Duke Chapel, where they’ll see a man in a red baseball cap named Carl.”
(And that’s just the beginning. We’ll spare you the rest.)