Pepperdine University is a private Christian college overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the celebrity-enclave of Malibu, CA. The school is known for its sports teams, mandatory attendance at spiritual events, and for its strong journalism department — with "Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs" majors pulling in 22 percent of its students. Their student-run newspaper, the Pepperdine Graphic is the oldest student organization on campus and keeps a very active online presence publishing new stories regularly.
Unfortunately, something stinks down at ye olde Pepperdine Graphic. The paper recently ran a "Perspective" piece by student Caitlin McLaughlin entitled, "Racy costumes could attract unsafe attention," and it's not the greatest. No, it's not the greatest, at all.
About Halloween, she writes:
Who can resist the urge, therefore, to put on the raciest outfit they own? It's the perfect opportunity to take a stab at your overly protective parents or make that awful ex-boyfriend teem with jealousy!
But, have you properly acknowledged the risks? It can be very dangerous for women to dress provocatively on Halloween. When female college students decide to adorn themselves with minimal attire and walk the streets looking for a fun night without the least bit of protection, they are begging disaster to strike.
Ouch, this is filled with so many incredibly loaded words and statements, it's hard to know where to begin. "very dangerous for women to dress provocatively," "have you properly acknowledged the risks?," "begging disaster to strike." I could obviously go on, but let's read more:
Leave your lights on even when you're not in the room. For you party hosters: keep an eye on who enters your party. Be cautious about whom you approach, because that man in the blue might not actually be a police officer. Ladies: be careful to whom you are showing your curves and make sure to keep some strong men around you who you know and trust to ward off unwanted admirers.
I hope your Halloween night is filled with candy and laughter and the right kind of thrills and spooks, not the ones that will scar you for life. Personally, when asked for a trick or treat, I would always recommend the treat!
So, let me get this straight. You can either: dress in a floor-length potato sack with other potato sacks to cover your arms and seductive woman-face, keep an FBI-style documentation of every person who comes through the door, know that the people dressed as cops are probably sexual predators in tear-away cop stripper uniforms, don't talk to anyone, only eat candy, but not too much candy, and stand in the corner of a brightly lit room with your back to the wall and pray to not get raped. Is that everything? And then, if you do get sexually harassed or assaulted, know that it's your fault because you weren't wearing enough potato sacks — so sorry, now you're scarred for life. If you had just watched that door better.
Weirdly enough, the only part of this whole damn mess I don't take offense at is the rhyming insanity at the top — in college, we were all poets and you know its.
However, I would argue that the piece itself is not the biggest problem with this situation, the fact that it was published in the first place is.
I know the Pepperdine Graphic is a student-run paper and they're only beginning to figure out how shit works in the real world, so consider this a crash course. At any given paper, there's a pretty specific chain of commands. Before McLaughlin even started writing her misguided screed, she would've pitched the idea and talked it over with, most likely, the editor for the section it would publish in — in this case, the Perspectives Editor. That's the first time she should've been redirected or stopped. If she made it to the Editor in Chief (EIC), she should've been stopped, and If, by of some act of cruel journalism god, she was approved to write it, then when it was turned in for edits, you guessed it, stopped. I cannot fathom how this piece made it through so many barriers to publication. Or, I can, it just drives me crazy!
You see, students write for the school paper ostensibly to get journalism experience. McLaughlin is presumably paying to be poorly served by her editors, who were presumably trained by Pepperdine's journalism staff. No, the faculty absolutely should not have a say in the student paper's content, but the quality of a paper's content absolutely reflects the education the faculty provides.
It is the responsibility of the department to teach ethics and judgment, and telling women to cover up and watch themselves on Halloween for fear of harassment or worse, is irresponsible. I'm hoping that this incident is being both debated and discussed at the Pepperdine Graphic and in their journalism classes, and I'm hopeful an editorial apology or retraction is forthcoming.
It appears the journalism departments in our country are failing students when it comes to these topics — just take a look at Boston University's god-awful April Fool's rape "joke", the University of Arizona's homophobic cartoon bullshit, and The Harvard Voice's suuuper racist piece on Asian students.
University education isn't cheap, and I would hope the kids emerging from the system come equipped with at least some knowledge of how things work. That, and more importantly, a solid judgment that allows them to stop the presses when it matters most.
UPDATE: Just received an email from the faculty advisor of the Pepperdine Graphic informing me that I linked to an old version of their masthead, even though the date on the top of page reads current — it's odd. However, nowhere on their current site can I find a link to the masthead for this year, and that, in and of itself, is a problem. This is a publication so at sea they they don't even have a current masthead.
UPDATE: Apparently it's a glitch on the site that the masthead is not showing. Now that it's been brought to their attention, they are fixing it.
Racy costumes could attract unsafe attention [The Pepperdine Graphic]