Editorial: Administration to Mass Debater: Zip It

Editorial Board

The hardcopy of the Mass Media’s March 31 issue included a mock April Fools’ edition titled The Mass Debater as an eight-page insert. Included in this insert is a manipulated image of UMass President Jack Wilson’s face superimposed on the body of Adolf Hitler and Interim Chancellor Motley’s face imposed on the body of a pimp. The respective headlines read, “President Wilson Outlines Suburban Mission,” and “Makin’ Da Chancellor.”

The Mass Media has been criticized for these images by the many rungs of UMass Boston’s administration. We issued an apology and pulled the issue from the stands, have been encouraged to fire staff members to prove a point, and we watched our hopes for the Board of Trustees making our modest fee mandatory go down the drain. We have severed our relationship with the communications department, put a tactless foot forward during a very important time for the university, alienated two of our best writers, and overshadowed two semesters of damn fine reporting, hard work, late hours, and sincere commitment to the campus community.

Also included in this insert are articles about the dangers of endowed men in spandex, the uselessness of the letter C, Michael Jackson visiting JumpStart, Jesus riding a dolphin over a rainbow on a grilled cheese sandwich, terror cells in the Middle Eastern Club, Operation Fix the Shit Hole Garage unearthing the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, taxing the homeless, and the invention of homosexuality, the fanny-pack, and in-line skates in the summer of 1985. Did we also mention the insert’s name is The Mass Debater?

We took it for granted that Wilson and Motley would not take personal offense to the images due to what we felt, and what students have only reinforced since then, was really an innocent and quite funny April Fool’s joke. These photos are not directed at Wilson, Motley, or anyone’s personal beliefs, religious or otherwise. Our responsibility to the university during the other 30 issues we release each year relies on respect for individuals’ cultures, objectivity in portraying fact, giving students valuable working experience, providing a medium for dialogue on campus, informing readers of events and issues on and off campus, and a passion for every square inch of our weekly 24-page product. It’s hard to be a student-run anything at a commuter school where students are trying to squeeze an education into work schedules and family commitments and we’re note saying we succeed at our goals, but we do have them. And we have respect for everyone else who has them.

We deal with the difficulties of any other news publication, namely the often precarious balance between informing and entertaining, meeting near-impossible deadlines, non-human error (printer and computer malfunctions), and representing the voice and concerns of our community-in our case, the students of UMass Boston. First and foremost, we are a publication for the students. We strive as best we can to reflect the input and opinions of our university’s student body. What was intended as a light-hearted April Fools’ undertaking was taken out of context by the administration and misconstrued as “insensitive” and outright derogatory. To touch upon the finer points of social satire would be an editorial in itself, but the fact remains that a joke is still a joke, and when people put themselves in a position of authority as a public figure, satirical criticism, like a large salary, comes with the territory.