Western University newspaper apologizes for offensive frosh week issue

The University of Western Ontario's student newspaper has apologized for articles in its Frosh Issue that critics say encouraged sexual harassment and promoted drug use and excessive drinking.
Critics say an article published in Western University's student newspaper is a guide to sexual harassment, after giving a step-by-step list of ways to date a teaching assistant. (Balcer/Wikimedia Commons)

The University of Western Ontario's student newspaper has apologized for articles in its Frosh Issue that critics say encouraged sexual harassment and promoted drug use and excessive drinking. 

The issue included articles like, "So you want to date a teaching assistant," which concluded with a joke on getting oral sex from TAs, and "Drugs: Advice for your Western experience," which recommended using marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms, or failing that, resorting to drinking and hiring prostitutes. 

The editorial board of the Gazette initially refused to apologize for the articles. 

"I think that taking everything into context, there is nothing in this issue that is … so outrageous that we have to apologize for," said the Gazette's editor-in-chief Iain Boekhoff.

But after a public outcry and condemnation from senior university leaders and the Western graduate students society, the newspaper has apologized.

"In publishing articles that appeared to promote excessive drinking, drug use and sexual advances on teaching assistants, 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," reads part of the apology posted on the Gazette's website. 

The paper said it would not distribute paper versions of the Frosh Week edition on campus, and would remove selected articles from the Gazette website. As of 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a PDF version of the entire Frosh Week issue is still visible on the paper's website, as are web-versions of the stories. 

Call for investigation into articles

The head of the university's student council is calling for the Gazette to launch an investigation into the situation through the paper's advisory board.

In a letter to the editor, University Students' Council president Matt Helfand said that the Gazette "grossly erred" in publishing the articles.

"We hope that an investigation will serve to reinforce the lessons learned and ensure that, in the future, these topics are dealt with sensitively and with the utmost seriousness," wrote Helfand. 

The student council is the publisher of the paper, though the paper has an autonomous editorial board. 

Janice Deakin, the provost and vice-president academic of Western University, said the university would be speaking to the editorial board and student leaders about the issue.