In the previous issue of the Emory Wheel
, we published an article about an alleged assault and battery that took place against a gay student at an off-campus Sigma Nu party this past weekend (“Gay Emory Student Dragged From Frat Party”
, 10.26.10). We acknowledge the criticisms that have surfaced in regard to the Wheel
’s treatment and coverage of this story. We would like to assure the student body that we have heard your concerns, we are receptive to them and we have spent considerable time discussing them amongst the Editorial Board.
Though many have corroborated the victim’s story, which details Adam Smith placing the victim in a headlock and dragging him out of the party, we cannot confirm the specifics of the dialogue that preceded the battery. We apologize for publishing this article in its initial print form without including a statement from Smith. We were rebuked in multiple attempts to contact him, but more extensive measures could and should have been taken on our part to ensure that his version of the events was fairly and adequately represented. Smith’s comments were later appended to the online version of the article and can be found on the website; we encourage readers to inform themselves of both sides’ accounts of the incident.
Both the victim and the assailant, however, confirm that the altercation began as an exchange over the victim’s “gay” clothing. This dialogue, coupled with the current national climate and the violent nature of the incident, gave rise to questions concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues on Emory campus. But the question for some students, given the environment in which the battery occurred, was more specifically how the LGBT community is received by Greek organizations in particular.
As the University’s student newspaper, we felt that it was our duty to give a voice to students who felt qualms over this relationship: feelings which likely pre-existed, but nonetheless were brought to the forefront, by this incident. However, we also acknowledge the segment of the student body that believes the article unfairly antagonized Greek life, treated all Greek organizations as a monolithic entity and failed to give equal and fair coverage to both sides of the story. We believe that now it is our responsibility to respond to these students.
We would like to impress upon the Emory community that our intent was never to cover this story from a standpoint of hostility toward Greek organizations, and we regret if the tone was perceived as such. Our objective was simply to place this recent event within the scope of a broader context, and we believed that it would have been intellectually dishonest not to do so. Furthermore, we did not actively seek to vilify Smith alone, nor use him as a scapegoat for a problem that does not just manifest in this isolated incident, but is in fact much more widespread and ingrained.
Yet we understand that the presentation of this story could easily misconstrue our intentions. Among the criticisms were the headline, which many believed to be an oversimplification of the issue, as well as the heavy focus on Greek life and acceptance, a question related to but not singularly informed by this past weekend’s alleged assault. We never sought to portray the incident as irrefutable evidence that the problem of homophobia is Greek-wide or Greek-limited, and we regret that aspects of the article promoted this misconception.
Other concerns cited the distribution of opinions represented in the quotes. We agree that extensive quotes taken from a friend of the victim concerning Greek organizations in general cannot be used to speak for the entirety of the diverse Emory student population. Similarly, we recognize that although it was a Sigma Nu fraternity brother who committed this particular assault, the actions, statements and beliefs of the individual involved cannot be treated as representative of Sigma Nu or fraternities in general.
But regardless of the exact nature of the assault, the emphasis should be placed on the reality that the event precipitated feelings of discomfort concerning gay students’ experiences at Emory. In the end, what’s important in this situation is not the altercation itself, but its implications: a member of our community was made to feel uncomfortable about his sexuality and was physically assaulted.
We cannot ignore the possibility that such an incident could be repeated in the future and could escalate to a worse situation.
Finally, we would like to note that the victim’s initial response to the assault was to reach out to administrators, including Dean of Students Bridget Riordan, Director of LGBT Life at Emory Michael Shutt and Director of Greek Life Buck Cooke. After the student met with these figures, we believed that it then became our responsibility to report on the alleged assault. We emphasize that if a student is seeking action or redress, the University affords a wealth of support, resources and appropriate venues for these exact purposes. Our responsibility is to bring light to issues that affect student life.
We hope that ultimately what is taken away from this article is the fact that such situations indicate that regardless of how progressive Emory is, we are not immune to questions of discrimination and prejudice. Emory campus is generally considered to have an inclusive and liberal atmosphere, but this past weekend’s events indicate that further progress can still be made. At this point, we should treat the current situation as an effective jumping-off point to facilitate positive dialogue and strengthen efforts to educate and foster an accepting environment — we believe that good faith efforts can and should be made to achieve this end.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the
Wheel’s editorial board.