Opinion piece sparks national controversy

DailyCampusEllenSmith.jpg

A column published in the Friday edition of The Daily Campus received backlash from student organizations, which led to national coverage. Photo credit: Ellen Smith.

 

The controversy surrounding an opinion piece published in Friday’s issue of The Daily Campus gained national media attention from CNN Tuesday in an article titled “Student op-ed argues drinking responsibly may reduce risk of rape.”

The op-ed written by SMU journalism major Kirby Wiley ’14, “Women: prevent sexual assaults, drinking responsibly may reduce risk factor,” prompted a petition from the SMU’s Women’s Interest Network and SMU SPECTRUM.

In a collaborative effort, the two organizations composed a petition titled “Southern Methodist University Daily Campus Newspaper: STOP publishing articles contributing to rape culture and misogyny in general” on Change.org in reaction to Wiley’s piece. The petition also cites two other opinion pieces published by The Daily Campus the organizations consider misogynistic.

As of last night, the petition had 250 signatures and argues that Wiley’s column “is nothing but victim blaming by a rape apologist.” It also said The Daily Campus has published “numerous sexist and misogynistic articles so far this school year.”

Samuel Partida ’14, an undergraduate assistant in the Women and Gender Studies program, was one of the students who helped create the petition. According to Partida, it was Wiley’s op-ed that affirmed their call for action.

“[Wiley’s column] was just really egregious in terms of what she was saying and there was no support for her argument. The most recent article [Wiley’s column] is a trend we’ve seen that’s just victim blaming and sexist,” Partida said.

Wiley, whose column has also been covered online by CNN, The Dallas Observer, and FOX 4 News, said her piece wasn’t intending to blame the victim or say all rapes were alcohol related.

“I wasn’t careful enough with my wording. I was trying to promote media attention to look at the other side and to tell people that alcohol involvement is overlooked. Maybe if it was [covered more], college women would be more conscious when they drink,” Wiley said.

Although the petition disapproves of the views argued in certain op-ed pieces like Wiley’s, The Daily Campus Editor-in-Chief Katy Roden said the opinion page is an open forum for campus voices, regardless of whether the staff agrees with them or not. She clarified the difference between an editorial board piece and a contributing writer’s column. Wiley, not a member of The Daily Campus staff, was identified in the column’s byline as a contributing writer.

Even though the opinions featured on the opinion page are not those of The Daily Campus, it is up to the discretion of the editorial staff, including Roden and the opinion editor, to decide what is published. Although they chose to publish the pieces considered harmful by WIN and SPECTRUM, Roden said it is important to keep the opinion page an open forum whether or not the opinions are unpopular.

In response to the petition’s concerns with The Daily Campus’s editorial discretion, Roden cited the newspaper’s past coverage of sexual assaults.

“We have a history of coverage on both the straight news pages and opinion page including a three-part investigative series on sexual assault at SMU that contributed to [the creation of] the [President’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures],” Roden said.

The petitioners said they aren’t sure of the final outcome they want from the petition except that, as of now, collaboration with The Daily Campus on coverage of certain issues like sexual assault is something they hope to achieve.

“Right now it’s too early to tell what will come out of this,” Partida said. “Our main goal right now is to talk to The Daily Campus and find out what are the possible ways we can remedy the prevalence of such discriminatory articles. It’s more of an inquiry and not an inquisition of any sort. We hope to work with them to create positive solutions.”

Partida encourages the dialogue and discussion provided by The Daily Campus.

“What I want is it to constantly be striving for constructive dialogue. A lot of these pieces are arguing blindly and The Daily Campus is pushing this info on such a wide platform,” Partida said. “It has a lot of responsibilities but I think it definitely needs to be more conscious of the implications of posting such articles.”

SMU WIN, SPECTRUM and The Daily Campus met privately Tuesday for an open dialogue between the three student organizations.

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