ERICK CASTRO FOR THE HOYA Students gathered in Red Square for a 10-minute demonstration Monday.
ERICK CASTRO FOR THE HOYA
Students gathered in Red Square for a 10-minute demonstration Monday.

In response to a cartoon in the Georgetown Voice, students organized a town hall discussion and demonstration in Red Square on Sunday and Monday, respectively, to augment campus-wide awareness about racism and responsible satire.

The Page 13 cartoon, published in the Voice’s Feb. 19 issue, depicts then-GUSA executive candidates Chris Wadibia (COL ’16) and Meredith Cheney (COL ’16) in a horse costume, beaten by now-GUSA president- and vice president-elect Joe Luther (COL ’16) and Connor Rohan (COL ’16) wielding two bats that read “Satire” and “Heckler.” Two bystanders at the bottom of the cartoon discuss the scene, with one saying, “Should we make them a grave?” The cartoon was met with criticism for depiction of violence against African-Americans, since Wadibia is black, as well as misogyny, as Cheney is depicted as the horse’s rear.

According to Georgetown Voice editor-in-chief Dayana Morales Gomez (SFS ’16), the cartoon was meant to criticize satire publication The Georgetown Heckler — run by Luther and Rohan — and its treatment of Wadibia and Cheney. In an article posted Feb. 18 titled “The Georgetown Heckler Endorses Joke Candidates Chris and Meredith for GUSA Executives,” the Heckler staff criticized the ticket’s minimal platform and Wadibia’s comments in the presidential debate Feb. 16.

Morales Gomez said the cartoon was redacted and removed from the Voice’s website immediately after the newsmagazine heard of the criticism.

“We don’t have a huge staff in the office every week, and most articles and drawings are coming in on production night, so mistakes slip through the cracks,” she wrote in an email. “Sometimes we forget an Oxford comma; sometimes we misattribute a quote. This week we neglected to consider all implications of Page 13’s drawing. The intent of the drawing was to criticize the Heckler, so we were not expecting a response like this. That being said, we have been receptive to the response and have since redacted the drawing. We are working to make sure a drawing like this one never again makes it to print.”

The Voice also issued a formal apology for the cartoon on its website Friday night, and Morales Gomez said that they are in the process of developing guidelines for their cartoon page.

“I think most are being receptive to our apology,” she wrote. “An apology obviously can’t take back the drawing or the hurt, but we hope that what people really believe in our apology is that we are working to do better. We don’t want this drawing to be seen as a representation of what the Voice is or what it stands for, but we are excited about where the conversation is going.”

Criticisms of the cartoon abounded on social media, leading to the creation of two events.

The first, a town hall discussion on Sunday, organized by the Black Leadership Forum, brought together over 100 students and administrators including Wadibia, Page 13 editor and cartoonist Dylan Cutler (COL ’16), current GUSA President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) and Vice President Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15), Luther and Rohan, as well as Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J. The event, originally located in the Intercultural Center, had to be relocated to St. William’s Chapel because of the large turnout.

The discussion was moderated by Innocent Obi (SFS ’16), and any student in the audience could share their thoughts and concerns about the cartoon.

Kimberly Blair (COL ’15), the organizer of the Monday demonstration, spoke at the town hall about how she connected the cartoon to police brutality occurring in the United States.

“[I dislike] the fact that someone with the political climate, with the political climate in this country right now, with police brutality against people of color, can’t see the problem with posting this not just in general, because this is violence, but also with what’s happening in our world right now,” Blair said.

Matthew Robinson (COL ’18) said he was disappointed that the cartoon was published.

“You should never forsake writing and editing material for a punch line,” Robinson said. “As a member of the Georgetown community we need to focus on intellectualism, never compromising intellectualism, never compromising journalistic integrity and never ever ever using anything that could be seen as racially separatist or even misogynist. I think these are things we need to discuss.”

Javan Robinson (MSB ’15), who opened the town hall, took a different perspective, and said that although the cartoon upset him, he believes that the cartoonist and editors may not have understood its implications.

“The great thing about Georgetown, that has shaped me to be the person that I am, is that I have been able to meet and speak with people from all over the world who have had different experiences, and I wouldn’t change that for anything,” he said. “Maybe, they didn’t know that this could be wrong, and they didn’t know the issues that could come from this, which for me is honestly hard to see because I am an African-American male,” Robinson said. “It is definitely possible that they did not see that.”

Wadibia also spoke, and said that although he does not harbor ill will regarding the content of the cartoon, he hopes that it can encourage campus-wide discussion about racism.

“I just want to say, I am by no means angry at all,” Wadibia said. “I am very sad and a little disappointed. I stand before you guys because I believe in my ideals of Georgetown. I am not a perfect individual, no one in this room is perfect.”

One student, Wadibia’s underclassman campaign manager Tim Yim (SFS ’17), asked how the cartoon passed through the editorial rounds to reach publication.

Although Morales Gomez was present at the town hall, she did not speak. Cutler, instead stood and delivered a speech, apologizing.

“I came here because I want to apologize to the community. I made a mistake, I ignored perspectives outside my own and I tried to spread my own message using imagery that was far too severe,” he said. “In doing so, I failed to look outside myself. And you know what, that’s the result of my privilege.”

On Sunday, a town hall saw a speech from cartoonist Dylan Cutler (COL '16).
ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA On Sunday, a town hall saw a speech from cartoonist Dylan Cutler (COL ’16).

Cutler said that he encourages the community to help educate him about his actions and about racism.

“I stand with you, I ask to be your ally,” Cutler said. “I don’t want to contribute to racism and I don’t want to make anyone feel afraid. It is not my intention to spread a message of hate. I want to help silence the message of hate and it is apparent that I still have a lot to learn in order to do so. So I invite you, please come up, introduce yourself to me and I invite you to teach me. I promise, I’m really not as bad as that cartoon may have led you to believe.”

A demonstration in Red Square followed on Monday. More than 100 students and faculty took part in the silent demonstration, which began at 2 p.m., standing in a circle and raising their fists for 10 minutes. Demonstrators included Luther, Tezel, Wadibia, Cheney and O’Brien.

Blair spoke to the crowd about the cartoon after the silent demonstration, encouraging community involvement in other Georgetown projects. She passed around a petition urging the university to pass a diversity course requirement and discussed standing in solidarity with Aramark workers for improved conditions as their contract with the company expires in March.

“This is what coming together looks like,” Blair said during the demonstration. “I want to stand today in solidarity with each other. … We’re trying to create unity and consciousness so that you can put yourself in somebody else’s shoes while you’re here at Georgetown.”

Demonstrator Kamli Sirjue (MSB ‘16) said that she thinks a larger discussion on race definitely needs to happen at Georgetown.

“I’m here to support Chris and Meredith because that comic was extremely disrespectful, and I think it needs to be brought to the campus’ attention,” Sirjue said. “We really need to think about racism and sexism when we’re doing these things. It’s unacceptable.”

Georgetown’s Free Speech and Expression Committee, an advisory body made of students and administrators, will discuss the cartoon in a meeting this morning in response to a complaint received last week. The committee is composed of student members selected by the GUSA executive — Sam Kleinman (COL ’16), Chandini Jha (COL ’16) and Annabelle Timsit (SFS ’17) — along with a graduate student. Administrator and faculty members include Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J., Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanne Lord, Assistant Dean for Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr and Rev. Bryant Osvig, S.J.

The committee will release the results of its discussion, which is not open to the press or public, in a week, according to Kleinman. The group will evaluate the complaint and decide whether to refer it to a sanction or educatory body or to not take action.

“We debate the question of whether or not the complaint has merit,” Kleinman said of the committee’s process. “In other words, whether or not we believe it should be referred to a sanction or an educatory body and whether or not we as the student expression committee need to engage in further education or perhaps need to release a clarifying document about the policy or revise the policy itself.”

This particular issue may be referred to the Media Board or Office of Student Conduct, but Kleinman said since this is the first time the committee has ever reviewed a case from student media, he is unsure of what will occur.

In 2008, The Hoya published an April Fool’s issue containing racist and other inappropriate material, leading to an office sit-in by students.

The university issued punitive measures, including sanctions and increased structural oversight. It remains unclear if the Voice will be subject to official punishment.

Olson and Lord deferred comment to Cohen Derr, who said that the committee is unsettled by the cartoon but pleased to see student discussion in its wake.

“Although we were disappointed that the Voice chose to publish this cartoon, we have been encouraged by their efforts to engage in understanding issues of diversity,” Cohen Derr wrote in an email. “The extent of respectful and constructive dialogue that has resulted from this incident is a powerful learning experience and testimony to the strength of our community.”

Hoya Staff Writers Mallika Sen and Andrew Wallender contributed reporting.

28 Comments

  1. So Georgetown kids once again have to waste their time protesting utter nonsense out of a lack of anything better to do. I have no idea how a cartoon that is on Chris and Meredith’s side is racist, but then again this type of short sighted thinking and knee jerk reactions to everything with a basis in fantasy and oppression basically defined their campaign, so I’m not exactly shocked to see the ringleaders names along with other people they roped in by yelling loudly about racism. The better question raised by this is: Is there any way to depict minorities in cartoons without being racist in some way? My guess is probably not. The three students on the Free Speech Committee (fairly Orwellian there), will probably seek to appease the spoiled masses in far worse a manner than Dylan’s shameful apology did.

  2. Much ado about nothing: this is simply more nonsense from the Chris Wadibia camp, which still naively clings to its belief that he is like Jesus.

  3. @A Student

    You make a great point. The cartoon is actually a defense of Chris and Meredith by saying they’ve been attacked enough. That begs the question of how a cartoon in support of them can actually be construed as bigotry towards them.

    Sadly, this is like the boy who cried wolf. When an actual event of racism occurs on campus, one wonders if it will get the attention it deserves due to all the false claims of racism by people we are reading about in this article.

    Chris talks a lot about his character. Now’s the time to step up and show some. Dylan Cutler was defending him and all the negative attention he had been getting. Chris can either defend him or hang him out to dry.

    Any bets on which path he’ll choose?

  4. transparency says:

    Funny that The Hoya doesn’t mention its own, very explicitly and intentionally racist issue that it published not long ago, and which sparked many, much more deserved protests.

  5. Violence against women and minorities is definitely not being glorified here; it is being condemned. Is no one familiar with the phrase “beating a dead horse?” Aren’t Luther and Rohan, the two white males here, the ones being mocked for their actions? Haven’t other newspapers published similar cartoons to make political points which also depicted violence against black males:
    see this link to the washington post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2014/11/28/see-some-of-the-most-striking-ferguson-cartoons-so-far/

    This really seems like a case of political correctness gone bad, not racism.

  6. please post the cartoon so that we can evaluate this story, rather than having to rely on student journalists.

  7. oops… please strike “student” on previous comment… didn’t mean to disparage.

  8. “In 2008, The Hoya published an April Fool’s issue containing racist and other inappropriate material, leading to an office sit-in by students.”

    Bad journalism. This should read, “In 2008, The Hoya published an April Fool’s issue containing material SOME CONSTRUED AS RACIST AND INAPPROPRIATE, leading to an office sit-in by students.” You cannot state as objective truth that the material was racist and inappropriate, because there are many people who do not feel that it was.

    Also, this Voice controversy is even stupider than the April Fools’ controversy.

  9. So apparently “beating a dead horse” is racist when there is a black person is involved. If the person in the horse costume was white, it wouldn’t be racist, right? God I am so confused. I feel bad for the cartoonist.

    Additionally, Meredith would have been depicted as the rear of the horse because she was the VP candidate, not because she is a female. Get your act together people!

    • “Additionally, Meredith would have been depicted as the rear of the horse because she was the VP candidate, not because she is a female.”

      Yeah, the rationale for why the cartoon was sexist was by far the best part of all this. If they were reversed in the horse, no doubt it would be racist for putting the black man in the back, and also sexist for implying that women are bossy.

  10. @Burr

    I agree these “controversies” are turning into the boy who cried wolf. You have one side that will say anything is offensive just to be politically correct/sensitive. But then there is the other side that will reflexively defend any action, even when that action really is offensive.

    Both sides need to take a reasoned approach in order to actually meet each other to discuss/advance the cause of equality. In this instance, that means people need to acknowledge the cartoon is not offensive by objective standards.

    • You make a good point. Whether you lean left or right, you need to call out actual instances of racism. And whether you lean left or right, you need to acknowledge that sometimes what some hustlers are calling racist or sexist is not either of these things, but has more to do with the personal issues of the accuser, not to mention gaining a little money and attention for one’s favored cause.

      One thought did occur to me in all this . . . perhaps there are really very few to no instances of actual racism and sexism occurring on the GU campus. On the face of it the idea seems outlandish, but consider how many stories of alleged racism (or sexism) end up being like this one: fake or overblown. It’s like there aren’t enough actual cases of real racism to talk about, so we have to gin up fake controversies.

      I wonder, too, whether it’s all part of a concerted campaign to foist the diversity requirement on the student body. Every speaker at the town hall meeting seemed to comment on it. The Hoya wrote an editorial about it. If I were of a conspiratorial frame of mind and thought the Voice and the activists were smart enough, I might even think the whole cartoon was drawn up to create this controversy. (For the record, I don’t.)

      I mentioned in the comments section of the Hoya editorial that each year certain professors in certain academic departments and programs try and find some easily brainwashable students to lead the diversity requirement effort for them. After all, there is a lot to be gained by certain professors on campus to have a new mandatory course in their specialty taught to every student. More money, more power, more chance to hire your friends, more attention devoted to you, and the opportunity to foist your ideology upon every student on campus.

      As I said, though, this will never happen. The faculty, even those that lean left, know that the proponents of such an idea and who will benefit most are professional victims and activists, rather than serious scholars, and the requirement will make the university look bad b/c the substance of a diversity requirement course is likely to be nothing more than an attempt at ideological brainwashing.

      Think of the lawsuits too when some student who rejects the propaganda and says so in class and gets a vengeful “F” for not being politically correct. Furthermore, such courses would draw more resources away from departments and programs that really matter and which actually develop the critical-thinking, writing, and other skills of students. Hell, event those professors who would support the idea are likely to oppose it because it will draw more resources away from them. Academic politics are zero sum game and professors at GU will have no problem, metaphorically speaking, stabbing each other in the back or stomping on one another if they need to.

      No, GU ill never have a diversity requirement, which I guess means that the campus is condemned to occasional outbursts of indignation over fake instances of racism, sexism, or whatever identity group wants something and is willing to yell loud about it.

  11. This reflects terribly on the University, and not for the reasons the protestors think it does. In fact, they are the ones who make me embarassed for Georgetown. This guy drew the cartoon because of his “privilege”? What “privilege” is it that allows some people to claim victimization every time they see, hear, or encounter something that they don’t like even the slightest bit? And now this cartoonist’s name is going to permanently be associated with racism and misogyny because a bunch of bored teenagers decided to get all whipped up over nothing. Awful.

    • Great point. Some employer (they all do, even at Taco Bell), will Google his name and learn about this event. Either they’ll think he was racist (even though he isn’t), or they’ll think he easily caves and lacks the courage of his convictions, which is another way of saying weak and a hiring risk. His post-graduation job options have just been drastically reduced. But, he said in his tearful apology that he is “privileged,” I guess his parents have funds to help him out.

  12. Ben Saunders says:

    Dear all,

    As someone who agrees that a protest solely on a somewhat tasteless cartoon is somewhat excessive (for evidence of that position, you can look at my public comment saying as much on the event’s Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/events/363576737159272), the above comments lead me to believe a few points should be clarified:

    1) We live in a country that in its immediate history has experienced issues of racially related violence so intensely that we’ve had to have the question of whether or not black lives matter asked sincerely. The intended salient identities in the depiction were of Joe-Connor and Chris-Meredith as GUSA candidates, but the secondary identity of Chris as black and Joe/Connor as white still exists, and therefore the cartoon was triggering for many member of the black community on campus. This wasn’t an intentional act by the authors (although many offended individuals wrongly assumed that this had been done in full awareness of the implications), and occurred as a somewhat careless mistake, you could even say the cartoonist was unlucky that Chris happens to be black and you’d arguably be in your right to say so.

    2) The problem is that this reaction wasn’t just to this cartoon; it’s a reaction to the fact that greater offenses of a similar nature have occurred in the past with nothing changing, which is true both of the Georgetown community by itself and the nation as a whole. The title “Cartoon Sparks Ire, Dialogue” should read “Cartoon Sparks Remembrance of Similar Racially Insensitive Matters in Georgetown’s History and Therefore a Strong Feeling of Need for Making Something of This Recent Occurrence, Dialogue” (understandably that’s probably a bit too wordy). I’ll be the first to say that a potentially politically incorrect cartoon is not the best or most likely rally point for a movement, but it’s anger at the cartoon but general anger at race issues that have continued to have gone unaddressed at Georgetown that’s being expressed through the forum of this recent event.

    3) I’d like to think that most people can accept without argument the claim that diversity (pertaining to race, ability, religion, and numerous other facets of identity) is a sorely under addressed issue. For those who contend that this isn’t the case and Georgetown has achieved a post-racial society, for evidence look to the lack of minority students in student government, the tacit segregation between student organizations, and the general unwillingness/inability of many Georgetown students to interact with students of different backgrounds due to discomfort, fear, or being simply unknowledgeable. Again, this is a pretty scant/vague list, but happy to talk more at length in other forums (i.e. Facebook messages) about specifics. The concerns for diversity aren’t imagined because there’s nothing else for us to do, but because the problems genuinely do exist.

    Diversity has and continues to be an extremely salient issue yet ignored on most points at Georgetown, and it’s important that we move to achieve comprehensive change rather than superficial change that involves only those who are already well-versed in diversity.

    For this last reason, I want to encourage everyone to look more at the value of this recent movement for diversity (i.e. last campaign for georgetown, #thiswayfoward) rather than the immediate instigator associated with the movement (i.e. a cartoon with unintended implications). The cartoon by itself may not deserve this much attention, but the issues pertaining to race and diversity on campus the cartoon reminded many of do.

    • So every time violence is depicted toward a black person, it is a “trigger”? So every movie that has violence depicted toward a black person (let me tell you–there’s a lot of them) are offensive? Regardless of the circumstance? Regardless of the fact that it had nothing to do with their race? You pretty much summed up the ridiculousness of these claims in your last sentence, when you said “Chris happened to be black.” That is exactly our point. The cartoon was not drawn because Chris was black, but rather in spite of it. A real post-racial society is one in which a cartoonist can depict a black person in the same way they would a white person and not be labeled a racist.

  13. Collegiate academia is so very, very sad. Look at the damage it does to entire generations of children. How did it turn into a cauldron of divisive politics and phony outrage? Is that why one goes to college these days? To get a degree in that?

  14. @transparency says:

    First of all, the article does mention it. I guess you didn’t read that far before jumping to conclusions. Second of all, it was neither explicitly nor intentionally racist, and was another overblown, manufactured “controversy” like this one.

  15. “Responsible satire?” Why not call it what it is, “suppression of free speech?”

    How fitting these bandwagoneers are protesting in a place called Red Square. Bet they were all hashtagging JeSuisCharlie just a few weeks ago, too.

  16. @Ben Saunders,
    Some of us would disagree that “we’ve had to have the question of whether or not black lives matter asked sincerely.” I don’t think there’s anyone who would say that black lives don’t matter, and I think the over-the-top rhetoric of “Black Lives Matter” is a strategic attempt to convert a smaller, but very important, issue (“How do we improve law enforcement’s ability assess and appropriately react to African American men in cases where the man poses little or no threat to anyone?”) into some grander statement about whether white people value the lives of other human beings. (Short answer: we do.)

    I also remember the “tacit segregation between student organizations” when I was at Georgetown. And there was one reason for it: most students of color chose not to join the larger campus-wide organizations, and most white students have no place in the Black Students Association or other group dedicated to racial minorities. That’s it.

    If you want to see segregation in student organizations change, then encourage students of color to get out there and participate in whatever activities interest them. Or recognize that they simply don’t want to be a part of those groups*, and accept that the “tacit segregation” is the result of free choice on the part of students of color, not the result of some grand, unspoken, racist conspiracy (or “bias” or “privilege,” or whatever other buzz term is trending on campus these days) on the part of white students.

    *To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with students of color (or any other students) saying “Eh, I don’t want to write for The Hoya” or “I don’t want to do NSO.” That’s their prerogative. But they can’t make that decision and then also point the finger at The Hoya and NSO for lack of diversity. What should white students be doing? Personally begging disinterested students of color to join? Forcing them? Shutting down clubs until they meet a racial quota? Clearly, students of color know that the student groups exist because they’re complaining about being underrepresented in those groups. So what more—other than letting people know the group exists and how to join it—is there to do? (If it’s not obvious, I will disagree with any answer other than “It’s not white students’ responsibility to do anything else. It’s on students of color to engage, or not engage, on campus to whatever degree they want.”)

    • Excellent comment. The fact is that many of those complaining about the lack of representation don’t bother to join, or encourage others to join, the organizations they claim are at fault. In fact, some actively encourage them to not participate in organizations that don’t cater to their particular identity, or “mainstream” student organizations like GUSA or The Hoya.

      And there is a very simple reason why: it’s easier to complain about it than work for it.

      Also, our society encourages playing the victim.

      The sad fact is that even though GU is one of the safest, most welcoming places in the world for minorities, we select minority students who are likely to be hostile to that fact and who will create events that make it seem like GU is hostile to non-whites. The results are events like this, where left-wing students like Dylan Cutler are shamed, hung out to dry, and have their post-graduation employment opportunities ruined.

      As someone who leans right, I’m laughing all night because of it. Liberals eating their own. Hilarious. What a wonderful thing to wake up to.

  17. Ironic that the cleverest and most purposeful bit of humor was produced in criticism of Georgetown’s alleged satire magazine.

    • Also the level of irony that Wadibia was originally criticized during his GUSA campaign for being “homophobic,” and for presenting a campus sexual assault plan that would make campus “unsafe for victims,” in the latter case in an editorial that appeared in this very paper.

  18. Chip Sviokla says:

    For those feigning outrage over this non-event; shame on you for trying to bully others into silence in a free society. For those of you actually outraged over this completely non-offensive cartoon; you are colossally unprepared for life in the real world. The next few years are going to sting quite a bit when you realize what a juvenile and artificial cocoon you have been living in.

    Let’s be clear about something. There is no right to not be offended, no matter how hysterically low your bar to offense is. Nor should there be in a free society. Ever. And the title of this piece needs correcting; there is no dialogue resulting from these manufactured rages against pretended offense by spoiled children who are attempting to cower their opponents with threats of being virtually tarred and feathered.

  19. FYI, April Fool’s Day controversy was 2009.

  20. Pingback: College Media News: Sex Issues, Student Press Legal Resources & the J-School Gender Gap : College Media Matters

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