Columbia Student News Site Fires Staff Writer After He Appears on ‘Rapists on Campus’ List

A student news site at Columbia University is receiving attention and some criticism for reportedly removing a writer from its staff after his name surfaced on a much-publicized list of “Rapists on Campus.”

The list has appeared in various forms over the past week in random Columbia restrooms and classrooms — most often scrawled as graffiti or printed as a “rape list flyer” — spurring rampant speculation and increasing media coverage. It features the names of a small number of individuals labeled as “Rapists on Campus” or “Sexual Assault Violators on Campus.” The anonymous inscribing and dispensing of the list is being described as an act of desperation and defiance in line with growing student frustration over the university’s perceived passive or demeaning response to sexual violence on campus.

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Since fall semester, the eight-year-old campus news site Bwog, a successful spin-off of The Blue and White magazine, has been shedding light on this frustration and those perceived responses regularly and with gusto. As Bwog’s leadership shares, “Over the last six months, we have made coverage of sexual assault on this campus a priority in our reporting.”

Yet, Bwog’s sexual assault coverage ground to a halt last week when editors found themselves with a gigantic conflict of interest connected to the “Rapists on Campus” list. What was the conflict? According to Slate, “One of the names on the list was a Bwog staff writer.” Yowza.

How did the site react? There is legalese involved in Bwog’s own rendering of what went down, but basically they fired the staff writer. The site released a statement yesterday signed by four top editors and the publisher. It carries the tagline “clearly our lawyer looked over this.”

As a portion of it reads:

“On May 7, allegations that a member of our staff had violated Columbia University’s Gender Based Misconduct policy were brought to our attention by an anonymous tip. As a reiteration of our continued work against rape culture, we have taken steps to ensure that the makeup of Bwog’s staff, without question, reflects this. Accordingly, we asked this staffer to permanently and immediately resign from their position, and they agreed. Our decision does not reflect a position on the innocence or guilt of this former staff member, nor does it comment on, take a position on, support, implicitly or explicitly, any allegations of fact or law made against such person. To have allowed this staff member to remain a part of Bwog would have, in the opinion of the editorial staff, been a conflict of interest, hampering our ability to accurately report on campus activism.”

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In the wake of this explanation, concerns and questions are being raised about numerous parts of Bwog’s actions (and initial inaction): 1) Is it ethical to effectively fire a staffer over a single anonymous tip of this type? 2) What about the implications of punishing someone over nothing more than allegations? 3) How, and how fast, should Bwog have publicly confirmed the conflict with its staff writer?

In respect to the latter question, while other campus media at the Ivy League school — including The Columbia Daily Spectator and The Lion — dived in quickly with reports on the list, Bwog held back for almost a full week. Then, the day before the statement from the top Bwoggers, the site finally published its first rundown. Yet, it contained an editorial aside criticizing the list’s creators. As the post noted at one point, “We are incredibly disturbed that people think this is a legitimate way to deal with the issue.”

In response, Slate writer Amanda Hess argues:

“[W]hile it’s understandable that the publication waited to report on its own writer until it assessed its legal responsibilities, it was wrong to, in the meantime, publish a blog post admonishing the activists who distributed the list, without mentioning that one of its own staffers appeared on it. . . . A couple of months ago, Bwog was a central outlet for airing the allegations of campus sexual assault victims who said they weren’t being heard by their university. Now that it’s found a friend on the other side of the disciplinary hearing, its approach is a lot more complicated. It’s important for campus publications to tell the stories of both sexual assault victims and accused assailants. . . . But when the institution (the paper, the school) tasked with investigating the claims of complainant and respondent puts its own interests first, everyone suffers.”

Bwog’s editor-in-chief did not respond to an email last night requesting comment.

What do you think?

Related

Student Newspaper Letter Says Rape Culture a Myth, Blows Up Like ‘Hindenburg Over Jersey’

‘Booze-and-Rape Op-Ed’ in SMU Student Newspaper Stirs ‘National Controversy,’ Petition

Boston University Student Criticizes Student Paper for Joking About Rape, Assault in Crime Log

Comments
6 Responses to “Columbia Student News Site Fires Staff Writer After He Appears on ‘Rapists on Campus’ List”
  1. Joe I. says:

    What do I think?

    That due process of law is history, that’s what I think. And once that genie is out of the bottle, your due process is just as much in danger as the person who was accused in some anonymous bathroom scribbling. The person may or may not have been guilty, but a person is innocent until PROVEN guilty in a Court of Law, and a person has the RIGHT to face their accuser.

  2. Ron L says:

    The new Dark Ages. Accusation is Conviction, just like Stalinist Russia. While true that bathroom graffiti is more believable than much of what is currently taught at Columbia, one suspects that when this young man gets the right lawyer he will be left much richer (and wiser). “Rape Culture”….The new improved progressive Witch Hunt. I especially like how the proles who used to be his “friends” sacrificed him to the Rape Queen. Lord of the Flies stuff. College age children and faculty who are basically doing nothing more rationalizing fascism. Call it what it is. Bat-shit Crazy spoiled brats who don’t understand freedom, tolerance, liberty, responsibility or rights. The only good news is they will all be eaten by the very monster they build. The bad news is the rest of productive America has to clean up their mess.

  3. Isaac says:

    The whole “right to face your accusers” fad has passed away along with the outdated Constitution, and good riddance to both.

    • Ron L says:

      Isaac is a racist, sexist homophobic child molester. He preys on young girls who look different than him. And he is a rapist of Columbia Freshmen women. There is no doubt about any of this. How do I know these things? It was written on the Bathroom walls in both the women and men’s Facilities at Columbia University. Isaac must be exposed, publically hounded, shamed and punished. There should be no recourse for the filth known as Isaac. I wonder…what is his ethnicity? Do others look or dress like him? Strike out at his family! Hunt down his friends! Re-educate them! Tattoo them! Burn the Witch.

    • bill98 says:

      And with what would you replace them? The notion of a privileged group, ensuring punishment by virtue of mere accusation, does not seem an improvement.

  4. Vince says:

    What Ron L. said. Care to reconsider, Isaac?