After copies of student-run newspaper The Spectator disappeared from the south of Capitol Hill campus in April due to a controversial cover photo from a Seattle University drag event, officials say they are focusing inward on how the school can support LGBTQ students and making sure every member of the communities on campus feels a strong sense of belonging.
A school spokesperson tells CHS the Jesuit university is concerned about the media side of the equation. The spokesperson said the newspaper plans to address the needs of faculty and students with extra review and discussion of Spectator copies and that a task force was being created “to consider how we move forward on specific ideas and recommendations that have come forward.”
As reported by the Spectator following the incident, English professor Fr. David Leigh took responsibility for removing the copies of the Spectator, saying he removed the papers before a day dedicated to new students visiting the campus due to the picture’s potential to offend event attendees. Seattle University President Father Stephen Sundborg affirmed Fr. Leigh’s opinion but not his actions.
The Seattle U spokesperson tells CHS that Leigh did not receive disciplinary action over the incident.
Sundborg’s commentary on the photograph reported by the student paper wasn’t well received. “I thought it was indecent,” Sundborg told the paper. “I thought it offended all dignity and respect of sexuality and of persons of bodies. I think it was a mistake on the part of the editorial staff to put that on the cover. I was offended by it… Anybody who would see that who has a sense of propriety would find that offensive.”
As for Sundborg’s comments, the spokesperson said the school’s president has “a demonstrated record of supporting diversity and inclusion and moving the university forward in that regard” and “is looking at the lessons from recent events that can be applied to building upon past work.”
For the paper and the school’s LGBTQ communities, the episode has had at least one positive outcome, some of the student journalists involved tell the Columbia Journalism Review:
The paper provided a hub for LGBT students and alumni to share how the administration’s comments made them feel, and gave the whole student body a way to keep track of what was happening. After the initial incident, the paper published a story about the LGBT community’s response, with a rainbow sign spelling out “resist” on the cover.
The Spectator students say they thought a similar incident of censorship might have unfolded again in May when copies of the paper again disappeared — but it turned out “people had actually just come and taken them all one by one,” CJR reports.
Emily Piette is a Seattle Academy student completing her Senior Project with CHS
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