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ASUA Senate denounces Wildcat

By David J. Cieslak
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 3, 1998
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Matt Heistand
Arizona Daily Wildcat

ASUA Sens. Marisa Hall (left), and Maria Rodriguez discuss a resolution last night in Memorial Student Union, Room 256, to condemn the Wildcat for running a controversial comic strip. The Senate voted in favor of the resolution by a vote of 9-0-1, with Sen. Dave Snyder abstaining.

The ASUA Senate last night condemned the Arizona Daily Wildcat for running a controversial comic strip, but not before Sen. Maria Rodriguez ran out of the meeting crying and Sen. JosuŽeacute; Lim—n said the cartoon "could be endangering someone's life."

The denouncing resolution came in response to the "Looking for Billy" comic strip in Monday's Wildcat , which depicted two insects hugging and later being shot by another insect who screamed the word, "Homos."

In discussion prior to voting, Rodriguez, the declaration's primary author, began choking up as she pleaded with the Senate to pass the resolution, which states that the cartoon "has made a negative impact on our sense of community."

"That's inches away from me being called a 'spic' and you sitting here and not approving it," Rodriguez said before she bolted from Memorial Student Union Room 256 with tears streaming down her face.

The item later passed, with 9 of 10 senators voting in favor of the resolution. When ASUA President Tara Taylor signs the resolution as expected, it will become the official opinion of the Associated Students. Taylor was in Los Angeles and not present at last night's meeting.

The one abstaining vote came from Sen. Dave Snyder, who said after the meeting that he personally supported the resolution, but could not vote to pass it.

"I don't feel that I personally state what the entire student population feels," Snyder said. "I don't know if I was voted in to do that."

Jacob Rigoli, co-director of the Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Association, an ASUA-sponsored club, addressed the Senate and said he wanted it to take a stand and promote diversity.

"Not passing this sends a message to the Wildcat and the entire community that we're ignoring this," Rigoli said.

Rigoli later said that Wildcat Editor in Chief Zach Thomas told him during a meeting that if another epithet been used beside "homos," the Wildcat would not have run the comic strip.

Thomas denied that allegation, saying his comments were taken out of context.

"At the time that I spoke with the BGALA leaders, I was reading the comic exactly the same as they were and I had not heard both sides of the story. Under that reading, an epithet would be under question," Thomas said. "However, having heard both sides of the story, the word 'homos' is germane to the true point of the column."

Thomas has supported the comic, saying it addresses the inability of two men to show affection in public without others thinking the two are gay.

He also said he felt it was "unfortunate" that the Senate passed the resolution.

"I think it illustrates a lack of understanding of the true issues expressed in the cartoon, which are a germane social commentary rather than a homophobic social commentary," Thomas said.

He continued that the Wildcat will not make any policy changes, nor will the comic's creator, Jeremy Olson, be punished.

"No way in hell will the Wildcat adjust any of its procedures as a result of this resolution," Thomas said.

David Hensley, a UA alumnus and cultural diversity trainer for gay and lesbian issues, lambasted the Wildcat during the Senate meeting, saying he was horrified by the "gross error."

"It has set us back years in our effort and our fight working for what we are trying to accomplish," said Hensley, one of about 10 people who attended the Senate meeting. "This paper is not just distributed in the metal racks on campus, it's online, folks."

Sen. Emily Dunn, speaking in support of the resolution, suggested readers boycott the Wildcat if they dislike the contents.

"If you guys don't like what the Wildcat is printing, don't read it," she said. "If you don't support their advertisers, they won't get any funding and that will make them listen."

But Derick Kurdy, a member of the ASUA Appropriations Board, said the problem with condemning the Wildcat is that people have perceived the comic differently.

"Don't rush to judgment," Kurdy said. "Don't rush to assume you know the judgment of the student body without knowing all the facts. Don't make their judgments for them."

David J. Cieslak can be reached via e-mail at David.J.Cieslak@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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