In Wednesday’s issue of The Badger Herald, we printed an anti-shout-out that was distasteful and inappropriate. It read as follows: “ASO to the girl who not only passed out while we were fooling around, but then woke up and asked, ‘is it gonna hurt?’ then proceeded to pass out again. I’m still wondering, does that count as consent?”
I take full responsibility for the incident, but want to explain how this occurred.
The shout-outs are put together by our Advertising Department — compiled from the online submissions and printed in our classified ads section. As such, they are proofed by an advertising manager and rarely looked over by editorial. We have discussed this issue with the manager responsible, and I assure readers that she has given a heartfelt apology.
However, this is the fault of both the managing editor and myself for not checking the shout-outs for this sort of comment, as it would have been immediately removed.
I take these issues very seriously and want to make sure we rectify mistakes such as these. For that reason, I apologize to those who felt we were making light of rape. As someone who has had multiple friends victimized by sexual assault, it is not something I would joke about. It was a comment one person printed hastily without realizing its full implications. From now on, the managing editor or I will look over every shout-out to make sure the line is drawn between edgy and harmful comments.
That said, I am disappointed in the few people who have sought to inflate the issue from an unfortunate mistake into an assault on decency based on certain assumptions.
Starting Wednesday afternoon, I received a slew of e-mails from concerned students decrying the shout-out. When I saw that many of them were sent at the same time and included, in some cases, the exact same language and citations, I realized this was a concerted and organized effort to shame us.
It wasn’t until I arrived in Austin, Tex., Thursday morning after a daylong car ride and checked my e-mail that I saw how far the issue had progressed. A personal friend called to let me know the Medical Student Association had demanded a retraction and would enlist the help of that school’s dean if necessary. Legal action, ridiculously, was also mentioned.
While we made a mistake by allowing the shout-out to go to print, the people who passed around the comment with the subject line “The Badger Herald endorses rape” attacked this paper based on an assumption — that we’re heartless, crass and ignorant men who enjoy controversy for the sake of controversy.
Dialogue cannot occur on issues such as this if the first reaction is to lob moral judgments at this paper’s staff.
I can only hope that the next time we print something objectionable or controversial that readers hear the explanation before confusing a mistake with malice.