The Death of ‘He Said': Harassment Charges End with Mediation
The wheels of resolution have finally begun to turn for the controversial “He Said” saga. Last Saturday, The Mirror’s editorial staff and students who filed the harassment charges against the newspaper came together for mediation.
Mediation is a completely voluntary, confidential process in which two parties share perspectives and work together to create their own solutions. Mediators, the neutral overseers of the discussion, help guide both parties towards possible resolutions. Any agreed upon solutions are to be honored by both parties.
Both parties met with mediators Lucy Katz, professor Emeritus and coordinator of the University’s Conflict Resolution Consortium (CRC), and senior Andrew Carlquist. Carlquist is one of several members of CRC’s Peer Mediation program on campus, which is trained in the workings of this alternative dispute resolution process and advised by Katz.
Early New Year’s Resolutions
At the conclusion, several resolutions had been reached and an agreement was typed. The Mirror agreed to ultimately end the “He Said/She Said” column and reshape the space in the “Coffee Break” section.
Both parties will collaborate on a Sexual Assault Awareness Week to be held on campus and an announcement will be made to clarify the situation, accountability and resolutions.
The group reconvened this past Monday and the complaints against The Mirror are to be dropped by today.
“I was really excited to again come back and have more dialogue with everyone,” said Sarah Gatti ‘10 in an interview by telephone.
Gatti, who was not a member of the students who filed harassment charges against The Mirror for the Oct. 1 “He Said: The Walk of Shame” column, was pleased with the collaboration of both parties that occurred and expressed an eagerness to see the agreed upon suggestions become realities.
“I appreciate the fact that they are willing to take critical feedback and do something positive,” she said.
TTom Cleary ‘10, editor in chief of The Mirror, spoke on behalf of the editorial board through an e-mail correspondence.
“It was difficult with the rumors, media attention and other distractions to solve the situation,” said Cleary, “But when we sat down together and explained each of our sides and simply talked over the problem, we realized we had many of the same goals in common.”
Cleary went on to detail how the infamous column’s end had been a possibility for quite some time.
“The decision to end the ‘He Said/She Said’ columns was one that we had considered throughout the semester and had thought of eliminating it starting with the second semester,” Cleary said.
“We feel that we can continue to provide an edgy, entertaining and humorous column … but agree that it is a good time to eliminate the stereotypes and ‘box’ effect that has limited the writers of the ‘He Said/She Said’ columns in the past,” he continued.
Fuel for the FIRE
If the recent resolutions made are not enough to sway the minds of the University’s administration, an emerging fourth party may be.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)’s director of legal and public advocacy sent a seven-page cautionary letter to the office of President Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., among others, last Friday detailing the situation as viewed from an outside party.
The letter uses the decrees set forth by the University’s mission statement and student handbook to defend The Mirror and argues against the allegedly extreme and unnecessary course of action the University has taken. The letter reads, “If speech like Surette’s column is considered outside of the parameters of protected speech at Fairfield, then no expression is safe.”
The letter ends with a warning: “…we are committed to using all of our resources to oppose the punishment of The Mirror or any other campus publication punished for engaging in protected expression.”
FIRE requested a response from the administration on the matter by this Friday; otherwise the organization may begin to take action.