UNL student article sparks wave of criticism

2011-02-08T17:15:00Z 2011-02-08T21:50:16Z UNL student article sparks wave of criticismBy KEVIN ABOUREZK / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
February 08, 2011 5:15 pm  • 

An article and illustration in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student newspaper last week has sparked angry letters, e-mails and the resignation of a student columnist.

The article, headlined "Bangin' Out An Assignment," ran Feb. 2 in the Daily Nebraskan and described what it said were the sexual activities of UNL architecture students, claiming they have sex in Architecture Hall and alleging that architecture teaching assistants have sex with younger students. The story included an illustration of two students having sex on an architectural drafting board.

The newspaper responded to the wave of criticism Monday in a staff editorial that promised greater oversight of controversial stories.

"We just need to be more careful about getting more people's opinions about stories that could be controversial," Editor-in-Chief Jenna Gibson said Tuesday.

She said the story was submitted too late in the day for her or her managing editor to read it. The story was meant to detail the sex lives of architecture students but, instead, quoted a handful of anonymous students whose statements were misconstrued as representative of all UNL architecture students, she said.

"The real problem is not the fact that we ran this story," Gibson said. "The real problem would come if we did not learn from this mistake, and we are learning from this mistake."

UNL spokeswoman Kelly Bartling said Chancellor Harvey Perlman was disappointed in the piece and felt it "slandered" the architecture program and the university.

DN columnist Andrew Lacy resigned last week and in a Monday column criticized the newspaper, calling the story based on "nothing but rumors and gossip."

Architecture Dean Wayne Drummond responded to the article Thursday in a letter to the editor he wrote with Associate Dean Mark Hoistad. They took issue with the story's description of students routinely having sex in Architecture Hall, as well as the story's implication that the two major social events held in the college serve as a catalyst for questionable behavior.

"We have observed our students enjoying themselves in a positive way -- with maturity and professionalism," they wrote. "To imply otherwise in this article is especially offensive and so is the illustration that accompanies it."

Drummond and Hoistad also criticized the Daily Nebraskan for its portrayal of the college's teaching assistants. But, they said, they plan to talk to all of the teaching assistants, faculty and students about personal and professional behavior.

Reach Kevin Abourezk at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com.

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