Saturday, October 06, 2007

UK Students protest Kentucky Kernel cartoon

The Kentucky Kernel reports:

More than 100 students gathered outside the Grehan Journalism Building on Friday afternoon to protest a Kernel editorial cartoon that likened UK's Greek system to a slave auction.

The cartoon, which ran on Friday and was drawn by staff cartoonist Brad Fletcher, depicts a black man in chains on an auction block being bid on by three fraternities, "Aryan Omega," "Alpha Caucasian" and "Kappa Kappa Kappa."

The caption reads "UK Greeks lead the way on integration with this year's new bids."

"I didn't care about the 'purpose' - I cared about this man in chains, I cared about the KKK," said broadcast journalism senior Chaka Buraimoh. "I felt disrespected as a black woman."More than disrespected, I felt hurt," she said.

Editor in Chief Keith Smiley said an apology will run as the top story in Monday's Kernel and that editors failed to discuss the cartoon before it was published. The column was posted to the Kernel's Web site on Friday."I support my staff totally, and we make mistakes, but this should not have gone to print," Smiley said.

"Sometimes it's necessary to offend to get your point across. This wasn't one of those cases. I think in this case any message was lost because of the cartoon's offensiveness."

Fletcher apologized in a column that will appear in Monday's Kernel. It was posted to the Kernel's Web site on Friday."It was never my intent to garner this reaction or to convey the message that I have," he said in the column."In hindsight, it seems obvious to me why the cartoon has upset so many people," he said. "The images are harsh, dramatic and unnecessary."

Outside the Grehan building, students held up copies of the paper with the cartoon circled in marker with phrases like "Why this?" written beside it. Students passed out copies of the paper to passers-by. Reporters from the Lexington Herald-Leader and local television stations interviewed protesters. The TV stations recorded video of the cartoon, and the Herald-Leader requested permission to reprint it. The Kernel declined, saying it didn't want to allow the republishing of a cartoon that it had decided was inappropriate to publish initially.

A group of about 10 to 15 students went to the Kernel office to speak with Smiley and requested that the Kernel print a front-page apology.

Smiley said that the cartoon should not have run and that the Kernel would examine its editing process."Obviously, it's not rigorous enough right now," Smiley said in an interview later."We're going to get the whole staff involved in a discussion over the weekend, and in the coming weeks and months," he said.

Smiley said he doesn't expect personnel changes at the Kernel, and that "there's no one person at fault here." He said he wants the staff to discuss diversity and to encourage dialogue with other campus groups.

After the meeting with Smiley, agricultural economics sophomore Josh Watkins addressed the crowd outside.

"We will not let this situation go away, because action without longevity is not action," Watkins said. "We expect not only an apology and to admit that you were wrong, but we want to shed light on the issue of what has been created by this. We want people to know certain things, want people to think before they talk or before they publish."

After the protest at the Grehan building, students, faculty and staff spoke in an open forum in the Free Speech Area outside the Student Center.

"Not being taken seriously (in the Kernel office) really hurt me most of all," said Phi Beta Sigma President Ramon Juanso in the Free Speech Area. "I'm let down by this university, and I'm let down by the Kernel."

At their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, UK's Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council will draft a letter to the Kernel addressing the cartoon, said Panhellenic Council President Brooke Perrin.Perrin declined to comment until the council has met and the letter has been written.

James Harris, one of the students who organized the protest, said students upset about the cartoon will continue discussing how they'll respond."We'll have everyone think of ideas over the weekend, and we'll have a meeting on Monday," Harris said. "We'll have a definite plan of action then."


CrisisMaven said...

I have just added a Reference List to my economics blog with economic data series, history, bibliographies etc. for students & researchers.

Curtis W. Jackson said...

Given this matter a little thought, the cartoon is certainly out of line and tasteless. I believe the editor should had been mindful how the cartoon would offend others. I would hope both the cartoonist and editor with the newspaper offer their sincere apology. The power to print should not be an excuse to abuse others' feelings of self worth and dignity.