I do not think words can adequately describe my disgust with he behavior of The Hill News lately. Two very articulate women recently wrote letters to the editor about a “Cowboys and Indians” theme party hosted by Delta, and expressed their concerns for the consequences such social gatherings have for minority communities. One letter’s author, Chelsea Francis, is a member of the Native community herself and grew up on the nearby Akwesasne Reservation. Our Freshman year of college, Chelsea and I spent time tutoring at Akwesasne together as part of our First Year Seminar, “Native American Culture and Youth.” She was an especially valuable asset to the class, as she provided first-hand accounts of some of the topics covered in the course: how Native children have a lesser chance of receiving a quality and culturally sensitive education, are more likely to grow up in poverty, and are more at risk for developing alcohol and drug problems, to name just a few.
I was particularly outraged at an article The Hill News’ staff decided to print in their “Satirical Outlook on Campus Life” section, entitled, “Other Theme Parties That Were Totally Offensive.” It is one thing to joke about dining conditions on campus, or perhaps course workloads. It is entirely different, however, to compare the history of a group of people who have endured generational poverty and institutional disadvantage to that of 80’s ski party supporters. Moreover, The Hill News editorial staff’s blatant disregard for what was clearly an expression of deep and genuine hurt by members of the campus body is not only morally wrong, but professionally irresponsible. I work as a freelance reporter for my hometown Newspaper, the Press-Republican, and am well versed with the professional guidelines within which reporters are expected to operate. It is completely inappropriate for the editor of a paper to give her/his opinion on any letter provided by a community member; in fact, the only staff member who should be providing an opinion for print at all is a columnist.
The disadvantages Native communities face are not random; rather, they are birthed from the same ignorant and unforgivable ideology that would support a Cowboys and Indians theme party, as well as an organization’s disregard for one’s right to express her mind without being publicly mocked. Obviously all students concerned about the implications of this behavior are “too sensitive.” Obviously we should all be able to laugh about cultural genocide. Perhaps next the editors of The Hill News should publicly support a Nazis and Jews theme party, or how about a plantation owner and slave shindig?
I personally am very proud that SLU’s student body includes individuals who are brave enough to make their voices heard – especially considering that the environment in which they are doing so is apparently a very hostile one, even at the hands of free press and The Hill News staff.
Shaunie Cadieux ‘12