The Collegian
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Letter: Context is Critical

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to the archive cartoon from Sept. 7, 1978, that was published in the Sept. 4, 2008, edition of The Collegian. The cartoon depicts North Court with a fence around it, helicopters shining searchlights into the courtyard, a police officer standing at the ready, a "wanted" poster for "RC" and a young (Westhampton?) woman appearing distraught. There are two captions: The first one that caught my eye was "Beware the RC Men" and the second one was "Welcome to Westhampton."

I inquired to the opinion editor about the context of the cartoon. The response I received was that there was no article, and that the picture seemed to be a "satire of UR life with the WC girls on lock down and the RC guys on the prowl." In fact, there is an article related to the cartoon. The article titled "Crackdown at WC" was an editorial in response to an alleged tightening of enforcement of policies (including alcohol and visitation) in the Westhampton College residence halls. The title of the original cartoon is "Welcome to Westhampton," and contextually does seem to be a satire of the life at UR at that time period.

The concern I have is that the title "Beware the RC Men" which was placed over the cartoon last week is misleading and potentially harmful. A casual reader in 2008 can assume that the Westhampton Women in 1978 had a reason to "beware" the Richmond College men of that time period. Without context, the cartoon could be misread to infer that there were "RC guys on the prowl," perhaps as sexual predators.

And what message -- subliminal or overt -- does the heading on this cartoon send today? My hope is that there is not a reason to "beware" any Richmond College man. I am not in any way saying that there has never been nor will there ever be a situation that involves an RC man betraying the values of the college, but the RC men I know -- and that is a great number of them, past and present -- do not fit the stereotype portrayed by the combination of the cartoon and the new heading. To say that I was offended by the cartoon would be an understatement. As a man, as a feminist and as the dean of Richmond College, I believe that this cartoon sets back the programmatic work of many dedicated professionals and students on this campus quite a bit.

In the last two school years, nearly 950 RC men have signed on to The White Ribbon Campaign, which actively opposes violence against women. In the next few weeks, members of the RCSGA will be tabling in the Commons to ask RC men to sign a copy of a Resolution in Support of Inclusive Community, which was passed last spring by unanimous consent of that body.

If you want to see the original page from the September 7, 1978, Collegian, please check out our blog.

We'll be writing more about this, and we welcome dialog on this cartoon. It's context in 1978 and now, and we'll certainly take feedback and suggestions on ways to continue to battle this stereotype.

Joseph Boehman

Sept. 11, 2008

Richmond, Va.

The writer is the dean of Richmond College.

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