Western University newspaper under fire for article on dating TAs
Advice on sexual relations with teaching assistants 'unacceptable,' official says
Critics are calling an article published in Western University's student newspaper a guide to sexual harassment, after giving a step-by-step list of ways to date a teaching assistant.
"The London Abused Women's Centre has worked with Western University for many, many years in promoting safe space for students, faculty and staff and this just flies in the face of everything that we have done and the community has done and the students have done. It's just unbelievable," said Megan Walker, the executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre.
The article titled, "So you want to date a teaching assistant," is published as a list, with suggestions like "Do your research. Facebook stalk and get to know your TA," and, "Get sexual… Feel free to be liberal with those top buttons on your blouse or button-up shirt."
The article concludes with a joke about procuring oral sex from a TA.
The content is, plain and simple, unacceptable.- Janice Deakin, provost and vice-president academic of Western University
The university's society of graduate students has condemned the article, saying its content is derogatory and insulting and is seeking a retraction and apology from the student newspaper's editor-in-chief.
But the Gazette is standing by the story.
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"Our readership hasn't, for the most part, complained. It's been people who don't read the Gazette on a daily basis, who don't have any experience or knowledge of the culture of Western and the culture of the Gazette," said the Gazette's editor-in-chief Iain Boekhoff.
"I think that taking everything into context there is nothing in this issue that is … so outrageous that we have to apologize for," he said.
Instead the newspaper published a response to the criticism saying, "We have addressed a myriad of social issues in past editions of the Gazette… The Frosh Issue, as with all of our special issues, gives us a unique opportunity to address some of these same social issues in a more lighthearted, informal way."
The student newspaper, which is published by the University Student Council, has an autonomous editorial board, but the university says it has plans to meet with editors, and other student leaders to discuss the article.
"The content is, plain and simple, unacceptable. We will take this matter as an unfortunate learning opportunity to communicate our view and there will be follow-up with our student leaders to discuss this and their responsibility," said Janice Deakin, provost and vice-president academic of Western University.
This comes after continued controversy over sexual assault and safety on university campuses, including the recent case where two University of Ottawa students were charged with sexual assault following a hockey trip to Thunder Bay.