300 students rally against "hate speech" in UW Daily
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300 students rally against "hate speech" in UW Daily
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

more pictures UW Rally

UW students and the campus community rallied against anti-Gay hate speech this past Friday, December 5. An estimated 300 people gathered in front of the HUB with signs bearing slogans like "Voldemort supports a hateful Daily," and "I (Heart) ending hate" to protest an article featured in the UW Daily on November 25. The article, by Daily writer John Fay, compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, incest, and pedophilia, and suggested that the LGBT community promoted "social dysfunction."

Predictably, the article sparked a furious response, including demands for an apology from Daily editor Sarah Jeglum. The Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS), a key campus constituency, passed a resolution demanding that Jeglum either apologize or resign.

The rally, organized by UW students Kyle Rapinan, Katy Rice, and Carl Davis and the group Students for a Hate-Free Daily stopped short of calling for Jeglum's resignation. "We don't want to censor the Daily, we don't want to intimidate Daily staff" Rapinan told the crowd. "We do want them to admit that they showed poor judgment. This article hurt people."

Organizers of the rally told SGN afterwards that they were pleased with the results. "You know," Katy Rice said, "for something that began as a couple of students talking on Facebook, I'm really proud of how it turned out."

"It wouldn't have mattered to me if only 10 people showed up," she continued. "That would have been 10 more people doing the right thing. But what we got was 300 students, faculty, and community members that care about their peers."

Kyle Rapinan agreed. "I thought it went really well," he said. "It was an eye-opening experience for me as an organizer."

Daily editor Sarah Jeglum insisted that she stands by Fay's article. In a statement to SGN, she said, "I do stand by the article. In so many words, I would also say I stand by the right of the author to express opinions that a large number of people interpret as hate speech; that's their opinion, and it's just as valid."

In her end-of-quarter "Letter from the Editor," published on the same day as the student rally, Jeglum struck what some activists thought was a more conciliatory note, however. "You're letting us know what you think," she said, addressing the Daily's campus readers, "and we're listening. & In doing this, you've challenged me. You've challenged my ideas of journalism, its purpose, and the weight and meaning of free speech."

"One of the things we wanted was an acknowledgment by the Daily that, okay, this may not have been the best way to do this," Rice said. "We kind of received that from Sarah Jeglum in her letter from the editor. Now, our group's goal is to keep an open dialogue and possibly meet with the editorial staff to discuss actions for the future."

"The Daily was more accepting of the criticism than I thought they'd be," Rapinan said. "Once the next quarter starts in January, we'll have some new things starting up. Katy and I are thinking about what to do next."

"Personally I don't oppose the GPSS resolution for Sarah to resign," Rapinan told SGN. "They're grad students. That's their constituency." More important to him, however, is accountability in the Daily's day-to-day operation. "I want the Daily to reveal their guidelines on choosing and publishing articles," he said.

"I also think they should have civility training," Rapinan continued. "Some people laugh at that, but corporations do it, the county does it. They should learn to treat people with respect. If someone gets paid for homophobia they should be accountable to the dollars." Daily editor Jeglum and her staff writers are paid for their work on the paper. About one-third of the Daily's total budget comes from student fees and payments by UW departments. If last Friday's rally is any indication, LGBT student activists will have plenty of allies. ASUW President Anttimo Bennett told the crowd that "bigotry cannot be tolerated." Bennett also praised Rapinan and the other rally organizers for "standing up for what's right." GPSS Vice President Dave Iseminger spoke about his organization's demand for an apology from the Daily's editor, and promised that if an apology was not forthcoming, the GPSS would work to change the composition of the paper's editorial staff. Daily editors are selected by a board which includes elected student representatives.

Arts and Sciences Dean Ana Mari Cauce talked about her own experiences coming out as a Lesbian. "I know the painful consequences that can come from prejudice and stereotyping," she said. "And it was painful to have these words enter my life from a newspaper that is published in an office that's literally just a floor above mine, but I am thankful that I'm living in a country where anyone has the right to express their opinions, and where censorship isn't practiced."

Other rally speakers included Women's Studies Coordinator Elaine Haig-Widner, Q Center Coordinator Jennifer Self, Ycelica Valdivia, also from the Q Center, and Bernadette Lough of Campus Radical Women. In addition to speeches, the rally observed a moment of silence in memory of Duanna Johnson, a Transgender woman murdered in Memphis, Tennessee on November 9. Johnson was killed by unknown assailants after filing suit against Shelby County correctional officers for a beating she suffered while in custody.