The controversy sparked by offensive language in the “He Said” column has had serious implications for both The Mirror and the Fairfield community on and off campus.

A student protest against language in the column has created a buzz that has gone far beyond the walls of the University. Both editors and protestors have cited the high parent and alumni response to the article in question, proving that current students aren’t the only ones affected by language appearing in the independent paper. Now, the issue has permeated larger scale publications, such as the Connecticut Post.

The Post covered the issue this week, detailing both the language used in the “He Said” article and also the protest that followed. The Post’s article, which was published on Sunday, accurately portrays the conflicting feelings that students, faculty and staff have been experiencing in the recent weeks.

“They can publish (what was written). The question is whether they should or not,” Journalism Professor Jim Simon was quoted as saying, in response to whether or not the ethics code of The Mirror was violated. Simon also noted that this situation has been “a good exercise for both protestors and editors,” according to the Post article.

In contrast, the article also touched upon FUSA’s response to the controversy, which was recently outlined in two separate resolutions from the FUSA Senate.

“Jeffrey Seiser, president of FUSA and a senior from Torrington, said student government isn’t looking to censor the paper, but ensure better judgment by the student editors. In his view, the paper did breach its ethics contract by printing content that was sexist and vulgar,” said the Post article.

While this ethical debate will likely continue throughout the year, and maybe even for as long as the column exists, the question still remains if The Mirror will face any serious consequences from administration. Dean of Students Tom Pellegrino acknowledges the necessity for an independent student newspaper, but has been working closely with The Mirror’s Editorial Board to ensure that the paper proceeds in a more responsible way that benefits both The Mirror and the University at large.

“This University wants there to be a student newspaper on this campus. It should be an independent paper. It should be a paper that is free from censorship, but it’s also a paper that I want to have act responsibly as an independent corporation, including adhering to its own prescribed journalistic standards — to my mind, that has not happened here,” said Pellegrino.

Pellegrino and Editor-in-Chief Tom Cleary ‘10 have been in close contact and reached the agreement that the University will not consider any drastic measures (such as voiding The Mirror’s funding agreement) until The Mirror re-evaluates its code of procedures. The hope is that a re-evaluation process would improve the editorial foresight necessary to avoid future conflicts such as this. Cleary and the paper have 30 days from Oct. 9 to complete their evaluation.

“The Mirror, or any student run organization, I don’t think has the obligation to maintain the goodwill of the administration or the faculty,” said Pellegrino. “More to the point, the newspaper has an obligation to good reporting, meeting journalistic standards, and being something people are proud to associate their name with.”

Fairfield is not the only school whose student body is confronting hard-hitting issues such as gender relations on campus. For example, in Sept., American University’s The Eagle ran a column that used explicit language in the discussion on why drunken hook-ups do not lead to serious relationships. The article faced much of the same criticism: that the situation presented implied rape, and that the language used was inappropriate. Students debated the issue in classrooms, in formal meetings and via online comment. Like at Fairfield, some students also recognized a validity in student “sex columns” that attempt to discuss tough topics openly, for better or for worse.

“Sometimes, people get drunk intending to hook-up! The authors of [the article in question] simply tried to talk openly and frankly about a fairly common situation,” wrote an AU student in an article responding to the conflict.

“Put simply, if someone is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, as the article portrayed, they cannot give consent,” another AU student retorted in a Letter to the Editor.

The situation sounds all too familiar to Fairfield students. Similar incidents have also taken place relatively recently at Central Connecticut State University, Sierra College, and several other college campuses across the nation — with some of these explicit columns having been written by women, not just men.

Read about the controversy at Central Connecticut

It may not be likely that such a divided debate over what is appropriate for a student sex column will be resolved any time soon.

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