Uproar over April Fools’ issue
Students and faculty gather to denounce paper
Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Updated: Thursday, April 8, 2010 14:04
On April 5, 70 to 100 Auraria students gathered in the Tivoli courtyard to protest against articles in the Advocate's April Fools' Day issue—specifically, Hannah Schaefer's article "In the search for healthy eating, don't overlook the toilet," the question-and-answer piece "Dear white guys" by Theo Romeo, Steve Weishampel, and Jef Otte, and ,most specifically, Jef Otte's satirical column, "Enjoy Obamacare if you like payin for illegal Mexicans."
Otte's article, which, according to him, was intended to be written in the prose style of Tea Party right-wingers in order to poke fun at racism, particularly sparked outrage among a group of students composed of CCD, Metro, and UC Denver enrollees.
Auraria's Students for Justice, a group that formed after the April Fools' Day issue, organized the rally. Some members of the group say they lifted the majority of the April Fools' Day issues of the Advocate from the campus bins and returned them to the paper's office the day the issue was released.
The rally started at 11:00 a.m. Monday, and the group of students who congregated to organize the rally were optimistic about the outcome of their efforts.
Organizers held signs that stated "The Advocate advocates hate," "Ignorance + stupidity = the Advocate," and "This discrimination not paid for on my dime."
Ernie Duran, a senior at UCD, said he hoped the rally would send a message that joking about racism is not funny. "I don't think it was cool to do that [write the column] on our dime. I just want to send a clear message," he said.
Manuel McCree, a Master's candidate at UCD, said he didn't initially find evidence that the article was satire. He said the article "propagates racial undercurrents in this country." He also said, "Satire within a certain context is mocking, but race should not be mocked."
Katie Heathington, a junior at Metro, said she didn't know what she hoped to accomplish at the rally. "I'm here with my professor," she said as she pointed to Ed Casteel.
"I'm an instructor," Casteel said, who teaches at UCD. "Some people would take [the column] as the truth," he said. Several of the students surrounding Casteel and Heathington identified themselves as part of his class.
"I wouldn't say I regularly follow the paper," Heathington said. Later in the rally, she spoke onstage: "I think this is great."
Otte got onstage to answer questions from the audience. "I have a public history of supporting Hispanic causes and culture," said Otte. "I think I made that clear. In no way was I making fun of Mexican stereotypes—I was making fun of racist stereotypes."
After shouts of "You're a racist" and other interruptions, Otte was asked by the audience to leave the stage. Outbursts calling Otte a "racist," a "goof," and a "joke" were followed by shouts to "answer the question" and others screaming "bullshit."
Elizabeth Miller, editor in chief of the Advocate, read from a prepared statement. "I understand that you were offended," she said. "[The April Fools' Day] issue was a work of satire and was presented in the spirit of a tradition long upheld at the Advocate." Miller also said that she was happy to see students expressing their First Amendment rights by protesting, and that "censorship has no place in a free society."
Members of the audience shouted "Say sorry," "This is a rag," and "What about racism?" during Miller's speech.
Monica Grosfield, a junior at UCD, stated that Otte was "probably not a racist," but that he should have been more sensitive about his satire because "not everyone reads [the Advocate] on a regular basis." Grosfield also stated that she viewed racism as a forbidden topic for humor. "Racism is not funny," she said.
Victor Galvan, the CCD student who stated during the rally that he removed the papers from their stands on campus, agreed that Otte was not racist. "I'm actually a good friend of Otte's," he said.
Galvan said he "demand[ed] an apology" from Otte. Galvan also said he thought Otte was being implicated as a racist at the rally. When asked if he thought Otte deserved an apology for the implication, Galvan responded, "Yeah. I think he does."
John Lindquist, a sophomore at UCD, said he thought Otte's column was successful in its satire. "Humor is very offensive because of how subjective it is. I thought [Otte's column] was hilarious because it was clearly meant to be satire," he said.
Ben Overzet, another sophomore at UCD, agreed with Lindquist. "[The rally] is pretty ridiculous," he said. "[Otte's column] was just another example of satire. I thought it was really well done."
Overzet and Lindquist were holding signs that said "SaTIRE??? Wheely???," "Bring back Arrested Development," and "I don't understand satire" (meant satirically, in support of the Advocate).
Jack Kroll, UCD student body president, also spoke. "What makes this country great is our freedom of speech, but with great freedom comes great responsibility." Kroll called for the audience to "get into the seats" of the advisory board of the Advocate.
After Kroll told the audience to fight with the "water of purity and truth," he changed topics to the upcoming student government election as he introduced Keven Shaw. "I just endorsed him this morning," Kroll said.
When asked in a later interview if he used the rally for political agency, Kroll responded, "No comment." Kroll said the April Fools' edition was unfortunate and tarnished "Jef's stellar track record in advocating for the rights of these individuals who have now turned their backs on him."
Shaw also spoke to the crowd and said he would hurry as "people want to eat." He discussed the advisory seats on the Advocate board, the upcoming election, and his stance as a candidate for student body president. Shaw concluded his speech by asking the crowd to "keep it in context."