WesternU student newspaper “How to Date a TA” article prompts backlash

August 27, 2014

Western University’s student newspaper is facing criticism after publishing an article that some say promotes harassment of teaching assistants. The article, entitled “So you want to date a teaching assistant,” was published as part of the Western Gazette’s frosh-week issue. The article advises students to “drop in on [your TA’s] tutorials” and to “Facebook stalk and get to know your TA.” Kevin Godbout, President of WesternU’s Society of Graduate Students, said “it’s basically a step-by-step guide to how to stalk and sexually harass a graduate student.” WesternU Provost Janice Deakin also expressed her disgust with the article. “Not only does the spirit of the article run contrary to Western’s efforts to have a workplace and learning environment that is free from sexual harassment, it is disrespectful of the essential contribution graduate teaching assistants make to Western’s academic mission,” Deakin wrote in a letter to the Gazette. Gazette Editor-in-Chief Iain Boekhoff said he stands by the piece, which he says is satire. “This thing is entirely Twitter … I don’t regret publishing it. I regret that it caused offence to so many people, and it wasn’t well-received by some people,” he said. The issue also contains an Orientation week drinking game and a guide to drugs on campus. The Gazette has faced criticism over its “satirical” articles previously. London Free Press | Blackburn News | Metro News | Western Gazette (article) | Western Gazette (Deakin)

Postscript: August 28 2014

The editorial board at the WesternU student newspaper The Gazette has apologized for its controversial frosh week issue. The issue had included an article entitled “So you want to date a teaching assistant,” which many interpreted as promoting sexual harassment and stalking, as well as articles on taking drugs and drinking. In a statement, the editorial board said, “The Gazette displayed a lack of judgment regarding issues we have reported on seriously in the past. We regret this mistake, and we look forward to reporting on these issues in a more serious manner in the future.” The issue will be removed from campus and the articles in question removed from The Gazette’s website. Moreover, the issue will not be distributed during WesternU’s orientation week. In a statement. WesternU said that it “welcomes the decision by The Gazette to publicly apologize” and noted that “the student editors appear to have learned they showed a lack of proper judgment in their decision to publish these articles.” The Gazette | Toronto Star | WesternU News Release