College Newspaper Story on Students Dating Teaching Assistants Called Sexist, ‘Utter Fail’

Let the controversies begin! The first college media kerfuffle of fall semester has already ignited north of the border — and it’s a doozy. It involves TAs, Facebook stalking, “three days of people losing their minds on Twitter” and a letter demanding a student editor vacate his post.

“You’re in class and you’ve just laid eyes on the most beautiful creature to grace humankind. You can’t believe this person exists as your teaching assistant, as they simply seem ideal in every way. So what do you want to do? Date them, of course!”

An article in a Canadian campus newspaper is offering advice to undergrads on the “bridges to cross and dragons to slay” to secure a date with a teaching assistant. It has triggered condemnations from the related university’s provost, a local women’s group and the Twitterati.

The six-step guide — headlined “So You Want to Date a Teaching Assistant?” — appears in the annual “Frosh Issue” of The Gazette at the University of Western Ontario.

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The first step outlined in the piece: “Do your research. Facebook stalk and get to know your TA. Drop in on his or her tutorials, and if you’re not in that class — make it happen. Switch in if necessary. Expert tip: Be good at the subject and showcase your smarts.”

Although admitting in hindsight “I probably wouldn’t say it’s funny,” Gazette editor-in-chief Iain Boekhoff is adamant the piece is simply satire and part of a Frosh Issue tradition.

Boekhoff: “I’m surprised it’s got so much traction because it’s in our frosh week issue every year. Two years ago it was just straight ‘how to have sex with your TA’ as one of the 50 or 100 things to do before you leave Western. … I had one complaint late Sunday night which is after three days of people losing their minds on Twitter. This thing is entirely Twitter. I don’t regret publishing it. I regret that it caused offense to so many people, and it wasn’t well-received by some people.”

Among those people is Megan Walker, the executive director of the London Abused Women’s Center near UWO. In an open letter to Boekhoff, the university president and student union president, Walker says the article is “sexist and creates a climate of harassment.” She is calling for Boekhoff to immediately resign.

1In a separate letter to the editor published by the Gazette, the UWO provost expresses similar dismay: “The Gazette has the right to run provocative articles, but I find it objectionable that your paper would publish a column promoting the idea that students should attempt to have inappropriate relationships with graduate teaching assistants. … Graduate teaching assistants put a great deal of effort into ensuring the content they provide in class is educational, intellectually challenging and engaging. They deserve to be treated professionally and respectfully. The time is long past when these kinds of articles can be defended as being either satire or humorous.”

Boekhoff tells a local news radio station he has no plans to step down. In his words, “I stand by everything in the Frosh Issue. I think we could have done some things better. I think it’s a learning experience. We can definitely do better in the future.”

Related

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Comments
2 Responses to “College Newspaper Story on Students Dating Teaching Assistants Called Sexist, ‘Utter Fail’”
  1. Sam says:

    Thank you to College Media Matters! I for one have made a formal complaint, and so have many of my colleagues and friends. This is NOT just on twitter; Iain Boekhoff only said that because he’s trying to downplay the situation and dismiss people’s valid criticism.

    If you have a problem with the sexual harassment article, please don’t just comment. Write a formal complaint to Iain (editor@westerngazette.ca). He is legally required to respond to valid concerns as editor. Next write to the Advisory Board (advisory.board@westerngazette.ca) and the President of the University, Amit Chakma (achakma@uwo.ca)

  2. John says:

    I think this has gotten a bit out of hand, there’s much bigger problems in Universities than a student newspaper publishing satirical articles. Write to these people but not about this article, write about things like tuition fees, school infrastructure, and why TAs get paid so little. Sorry Sam, this is not something that Amit Chakma needs to be notified about.

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