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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Daily Wildcat cartoon causes campus uproar

    Several Tucson residents within and around the University campus attend a forum at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center to address the printing of a controversial comic strip in the Wednesday edition of the Daily Wildcat.
    Several Tucson residents within and around the University campus attend a forum at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center to address the printing of a controversial comic strip in the Wednesday edition of the Daily Wildcat.

    Students and community members gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center on Wednesday night to address racial unrest following the Daily Wildcat’s publication of a comic that depicted an individual using a racial slur against black people.

    The discussion took place in one of the largest rooms at the MLK Center, where many spoke about where blame should be placed and what actions can be taken.

    “”I think we are currently brainstorming a lot of the ways that the Wildcat should be held accountable for this,”” said Jessica Anderson, executive vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. “”A lot of senators and, of course our entire organization, are very committed to promoting diversity of campus, and something like this is definitely not pursuing this goal.””

    The comic, which has been published at other colleges across the country within the past couple weeks, produced similar unrest among students and community members. The publication of the comic Wednesday, however, one day after Barack Obama was elected as president of the United States, became a focus during the forum. Individuals at the forum refused to speak to the Daily Wildcat, but much of their commentary focused on the timing of the comic.

    “”I definitely think the timing makes it worse than it already is,”” said Jennifer Hoefle, senior coordinator for Social Justice Programs. “”The comic itself is racist, and it is using a term that has the nastiest racist history for that people, but for the Wildcat to include that today makes it worse. To put that particular comic in the paper the day after the election and the result of the election

    is problematic.””

    Anderson added that “”those are boundaries that severely damage, I think, a lot of the sense of community that we have at the University of Arizona. And we work very hard to have that image and that sense of community, and publishing hateful messages is something I would definitely consider crossing boundaries.””

    In addition to the timing of the comic, individuals discussed accountability, particularly on behalf of the Editor in Chief Lauren LePage. While most of the participants at the forum said they felt that the Daily Wildcat was responsible for the publication, many still said LePage, being the editor in chief, was primarily at fault for letting the comic run.

    While LePage accepts responsibility for the comic’s publication, she said its appearance in the Daily Wildcat was born out of simple miscommunication within the newsroom.

    Keith “”Keef”” Knight, the comic’s creator, is a regular contributor to the student-run newspaper who usually sends his art to LePage in bundles. They are placed on the Daily Wildcat’s server, and she later selects one for each Wednesday’s issue.

    Knight’s comics regularly focus on race issues, but he also has a series called “”Life’s Little Victories.”” The Knight comic that LePage had picked for the post-election Daily Wildcat issue – the comic running today, page 4 – was an inspirational and upbeat victories piece about the triumph of the political process.

    LePage received the upbeat comic from Knight in the hours before the end of the election and saved it on the newspaper’s server for print, she said. However, another comic had been marked earlier in the day for print without her knowledge.

    While LePage normally reviews every page before it enters the process of publication, the comics were placed in the weekly WildLife portion of the newspaper, a section under the control of managing editor Nickolas Seibel.

    “”I thought everything was fine, because I knew the arts content,”” LePage said. “”And I thought I knew the comic content.””

    In reality, while today’s comic was meant to run in Wednesday’s issue, Knight intended for Wednesday’s comic to run about a week or two ago, when its message would be most relevant and timely, LePage said. She said she did not have this comic selected for print at any point.

    Individuals at the forum discussed possible actions against the Daily Wildcat, including boycotting the publication and the businesses that sponsor the publication. They also discussed potential programs that can be established for freshmen and sophomores who live in residence halls, and encouraged people to write to the Daily Wildcat to express their expectations.

    “”If we don’t stop this now, it will continue, and it will get hushed up like other stories in the past have,”” said a participant of Wednesday’s forum. “”We want an apology. We want something that is nothing less than front page.””

    Other participants at the forum, expressed desire to take action against the publication, and demanded that accountability be appropriately handled.

    “”The question is: What do we want to see happen?”” said another participant at the forum. “”Everyone that’s here should write a letter and submit it. We need to create a paper trail to follow the editor in chief.””

    Although the publication of the comic on Wednesday has sparked mostly negative criticism, some have seen some potential good.

    “”Every student I had talked to is appalled at the cartoon,”” Hoefle said. “”I interact with a lot of students and the only response I have heard is very negative. But, to me, the good that can come out of it is a talk, a real dialogue about racism and what that means, and we need to have that dialogue.””

    ASUA Sen. Gabriella Ziccarelli felt similarly, saying that the discussion of such an issue will have good consequences.

    “”Seeing people’s concern, not just for groups that were attacked, but … also wanting to make sure that their groups and other groups on campus are protected as well, that right there shows that … something like this happening can have a positive aspect to it, and that we all can join together,”” Ziccarelli said.

    Knight is a prominent black artist who often uses art in comic form to bring social, political and racial issues to the forefront of people’s minds. For example, one Knight comic showed police brutality against black Americans in order to stir discussion.

    “”This is (Knight’s) style,”” LePage said. “”We chose this artist for a reason.””

    The timing of the comic’s publication was what made it so problematic, as it ran the day after the U.S. elected its first black president, she said.

    “”When (Knight) made it, it was still timely – but not anymore,”” LePage said. “”That’s our fault.””

    The bad timing mixed with the racial slur was a recipe for disaster that picked out a single word and took it out of context, resulting in a backlash that is certainly understandable, LePage said.

    “”It’s such a strong word. If people weren’t bothered by it, that would be sad,”” she said. “”That being said, I didn’t choose it for publication.””

    LePage did not even realize there was a problem until she started receiving phone calls and text messages Wednesday morning, a puzzling situation for her, as LePage did not know the comic had run.

    Besides the barrage of phone calls and angry e-mails, several students entered the newsroom together around 3 p.m. Wednesday to voice their concerns about the comic. LePage met with the group in her office, pushing the Daily Wildcat budget meeting back in order to hear their concerns, she said.

    After a short period of conversation, the group began personally attacking LePage and demanded a page 1 apology, she said.

    LePage told the group she would be running an explanation in today’s issue.

    While LePage wished to open lines of communication with those troubled by the comic, she was not informed of the rally at the MLK Center, an event she would have attended in order to properly represent the Daily Wildcat, she said.

    “”There was no notice of the meeting to me,”” LePage said. “”How can I speak without an invitation?””

    The Daily Wildcat did not receive any calls from officials about the event. Audience members at the MLK Center rally were hostile toward Daily Wildcat reporters and a photographer, refusing to provide their names or comments and demanding that the photographer delete his photographs at the public meeting.

    LePage said there should have been a timely announcement of the meeting in order for her to attend and prepare an explanation. Such an avenue would have been more productive for all parties involved, as well as more fruitful for open discussion, LePage said.

    “”I hope that after they read our full explanation (today), they will have a better idea of why and how things happened,”” she said. “”Whatever they feel after that is really their choice, and I respect that.””

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