I am writing in response to the satirical “article” published last week for two reasons – as a concerned student, as well as the president of the student organization who was publicly mocked in the article as well. The article, titled “Senate president jumps off Union clock tower” makes light of an epidemic that plagues college students every day – in fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students. Many of us have faced mental health struggles or been impacted by those of someone else. For a newspaper that is supposed to represent, advocate for, and give a voice to students, it was tasteless and wildly inappropriate for this edition to be published. From the lens as a member of Student Organization Leadership Consultants (SOLC), I am also sharing my thoughts in an attempt to hold others accountable to their actions and how they affect the working environment of many different students on campus.
The Cigar’s crude portrayal of a suicide of the Student Senate president poses a multitude of issues, the least among them the trivialization of suicide to working through snow delays and paperwork. For those who face the uphill battle of mental health every day, it is not so simple as just dealing with frustrations. It is feelings of isolation, self-worth, trauma, and any number of personal challenges. It can not be boiled down to a mere “yikes” as described in the article. Secondly, the graphic depiction can be triggering and potentially dangerous, and for a campus that has put on many awareness events regarding mental health, we need to do better to protect our students. The Senate itself is commonly an advocate for mental health awareness, but the satire made out of such a sensitive topic diminishes the credibility of those who do good work. I am concerned about the possible impact this could have on students who fight with mental health every day, as well as potential barriers to resources. This article was published on the beginning of the busiest tour season of the year – it was printed with student fee funds and recklessly jeopardized the image of our university. For an interested parent who might have picked up a copy of the newspaper that day, they would have no context clues on the “satirical” nature of it.
What I feel should also be pointed out and recognized by the public is the Student Senate’s contributions to this article, and why this was such a personal offense. The article, while under the byline of Henry M. Robert who is not listed on the Good Five Cent Cigar staff or in the student directory, was self-reportedly written by members of Student Senate. In the final paragraph of the article, it is written that “A Capital Improvement request of $16,400 is being considered as a bill recently introduced that would commission a statue of Buckshot slamming his face into his own desk, to be set on the lawn outside the Memorial Union close to the entrance.” As recorded in the most recent budget by Student Senate, $16,400 was the previous SOLC requested budget. SOLC is an organization that practices inclusivity, diversity, coping and problem solving, as well as conflict resolution and was voted to become unfunded on 3/28/18, an issue that became hotly contested, deeply personal, and public. I am deeply embarrassed and offended that Student Senate would choose to connect our organization to an article about suicide, continue contributing to hostile relationships, and stooping down to, essentially, rubbing salt in the very fresh wound. Since the article has come out and many students took to social media to express their feelings – including myself – there have been concerns that SOLC is trying to get the Cigar unfunded because they are upset that SOLC is unfunded and the Cigar, an organization with an identical structure and relationship to academics, continues to be funded. This is a gross misunderstanding. As an executive member of the organization, I speak for SOLC when I say that we fully support the funding of student organizations and support the Cigar’s funding, however we are questioning the equitable practices of the Senate in allocating funds and making biased decisions – as evident from the inclusion of our budget and its relation to the Senate president’s death by suicide.
I write this to articulate my thoughts as a concerned student as well as the representative of an organization that has come under fire from Student Senate, the Cigar, and other voices on campus who questioned our intentions in bringing light to the article. The advocacy for students who fall across the spectrum of mental health is something that I personally feel responsible for, and something that SOLC works for as well on a daily basis. I would like to recognize and applaud the efforts of the Cigar for remedying this – from removing all the copies and the article from their website to attending Mental Health First Aid trainings and working to educate themselves about the impact of words on others. I would like to implore those who also claim involvement to issue a public and personal apology to all students impacted, and work to ensure that they are culturally competent and informed in order to best serve the student body. Thank you.
Yours in service,