Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Satirical Rendering of Ash Wednesday as ‘Ass Wednesday’ Draws Pushback

The Georgetown Heckler, a humor and satire magazine based at Georgetown University, has faced criticism after members drew butts on their foreheads in Red Square on Feb. 14, in celebration of what they called “Ass Wednesday.” 

The Heckler, which is student-run but unaffiliated with Georgetown University, organized the display to satirically commemorate Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a period of 40 days of reflection and fasting. Many Christians attended religious services and received ashes on their foreheads to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. 

The Heckler’s board said they did not intend to insult the spiritual meaning of Ash Wednesday or Christians’ religious practices with the joke. 

“We think it’s a funny and light-hearted public performance,” The Heckler’s board wrote to The Hoya. “We did not intend to make any statement about the religious significance of Ash Wednesday, or about the character or integrity of people who partake in Ash Wednesday.”

The Heckler board members said they did not feel that their actions were discriminatory toward Catholics.

“We don’t really think that Catholicism is seriously threatened by a butt pun made by an university-unrecognized, unfunded club,” The Heckler board said.

The Heckler’s “Ass Wednesday” gained traction online after Ashley Hayek, the chief engagement officer at a conservative think tank, the America First Policy Institute, posted a picture of the students with butts drawn on their foreheads on X, formerly known as Twitter. The post, which received nearly a million views, criticized the students and university administration for permitting the conduct. 

DISGRACE! Students at Georgetown — a Catholic University — have an ‘A** Wednesday’ table on campus with a butt drawn on their foreheads,” Hayek wrote in the post. “It’s disturbing that these students would mock the sacred tradition of Ash Wednesday — a day of profound significance around the world. Shame on them. And shame on Georgetown for allowing this!!”

A university spokesperson said the university does not endorse the denigration of any faith on campus despite the university’s commitment to free speech.

“As a Catholic and Jesuit university, Georgetown is firmly committed to the Catholic Church’s teachings and values and the celebration of Ash Wednesday on campus,” the spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “While Georgetown’s policies give the broadest latitude for the free expression of ideas and opinions, the belittling of any faith tradition on our campus is counter to our values and deeply disappointing.”

@ashleyhayek/X | The Georgetown Heckler has faced criticism after members drew butts on their foreheads in Red Square on Feb. 14, in celebration of what they called “Ass Wednesday.”

“While designated areas on campus are available to members of the University community for tabling or exercising speech without a prior reservation, the presence of a table should not be considered an endorsement by Georgetown University,” the spokesperson added.

Red Square, a university-recognized “public square,” provides students with an area to freely present their views. Political and social tabling, including by organizations the university does not formally recognize like The Heckler, are freely allowed there. 

Speech that qualifies as harassment or a legitimate threat to students is not allowed in designated public squares, according to the university’s speech and expression policy.

The Heckler board said their actions were in line with this policy, and the community should consider them as an act of free speech. 

Ass Wednesday is unequivocally an expression of free speech performed within a university-sanctioned free speech zone,” The Heckler board wrote. “We do not feel that we have contributed to any sort of social pressure that Catholics face nationally, especially at a Catholic university.”

Bridgitte Isom (SOH ’24), the president of Catholic Women At Georgetown, a student group on campus, said she found “Ass Wednesday” offensive.

“Ash Wednesday is a serious, holy day for Catholics and Protestants and should be treated with respect,” Isom wrote to The Hoya. “The same goes for any other faith group on campus.” 

Cynthia Gudaitis (CAS ’27), who identifies as Christian, said she found “Ass Wednesday” funny but insensitive. 

“A joke is a joke, and I think that the intentions weren’t harmful, but I think that it was a little bit insensitive,” Gudaitis told The Hoya. “So maybe The Heckler should just be a little bit more careful next time — know your audience, and instead of tabling that for the entire GU community, keep the joke to a more reserved community.” 

Maggie Lober (SFS ’26), a Catholic student, said that The Heckler’s actions overlook the significance of Ash Wednesday for many Catholics.

“It is one of those traditions that has in the past helped to connect Catholics to other community members, who are hoping to see the church for the first time or sort of learn what Lent is about, for example, and I think that making a mockery of that is in poor taste,” Lober told The Hoya.

Isom said “Ass Wednesday” contradicts Georgetown’s commitment to promoting interfaith conversations among members of the community.

“Georgetown has a rich tradition of fostering interreligious dialogue and understanding, working against division and prejudice,” Isom wrote. “These ‘jokes’ are counterproductive to that effort by normalizing religious mockery.” 

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