Flunk Day Issue 2007

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The Flunk Day Issue of TKS printed May 8, 2007 has caused much controversy. At issue was the use of the headline "Jesus Fucking Christ to be 2008 Commencement Speaker."

Meeting with Deans[edit]

The TKS editorial board and the Deans of the College met May 10, 2007 at 2 pm in the Alumni Room in Old Main to discuss the Flunk Day Issue. The heavily rumored details of the conversation were published in the May 25 issue of TKS. Roger Taylor's actions during the afternoon are controversial for some students.

President Taylor's Email[edit]

On May 11, 2007, Roger Taylor issued this statement in a campus-wide email:

"To the Knox Community:

Yesterday, Thursday, May 10, 2007, the editorial board of the student newspaper met with Dean Breitborde, Dean Romano, and me at our invitation.

Dean Breitborde, Dean Romano, and I tried to explain to the members of the editorial board, in the bluntest possible terms, that the gratuitous front page headline in the Flunk Day edition of the student newspaper had been offensive and hurtful to many members of the Knox Community. Dean Breitborde, Dean Romano, and I tried to explain that those who took offense were not limited to just Christians or other people of faith. Many took offense at the insensitivity of the headline. We also tried to explain that our views had nothing to do with free expression. We acknowledged that freedom of expression and sensitivity to others do not always have the same boundaries. Free expression would sanction the headline. Sensitivity to others would not.

We tried to explain that the reaction to the headline that we referenced is not limited to the campus community. The network of Knox alumni and friends is extensive and readily accessible in this age of the Internet. As we explained, alumni from outside Galesburg have called the College to express feelings ranging from disappointment to outrage. A trustee telephoned me to say that he was "embarrassed" to be a Knox trustee and that he had not ruled out resigning from the board. The effect of the headline on College fundraising cannot be estimated precisely, but it most certainly will be adverse.

After our meeting, I personally delivered a letter of apology to Don Cooper, Publisher of the Register-Mail, which printed the Flunk Day edition in question, apologizing on behalf of the College that he and the Register-Mail's employees were subjected to the headline. Mr. Cooper expressed his appreciation to me then and subsequently in an email. He told me that he thought that the incident was a good reminder of something that he tells his employees: "with paper and ink, comes responsibility."

I apologize for the College to all members of the Knox Community for the offensive Flunk Day student paper.

I understand that the Broadcast, Internet and Publications Board has received complaints and other communications about the headline. The Broadcast, Internet and Publications Board, or BIP, includes students, faculty, and advisers to established campus media. BIP is the appropriate entity under the College's governance system to consider, in the first instance, what, if any, action should be taken concerning this matter.

As offensive as the headline was to so many, it is important to bear in mind that it resulted from a serious error in judgment by a few students. This was not the first time, nor will it be the last time that students err in making judgments. From errors in judgment, we all can learn.

I suspect that for many of us, the memory of the headline will be overshadowed by recollections of this past Monday evening, when over 400 people jammed into Kresge Recital Hall to hear and question Ambassador Zhou from the People's Republic of China. The questions from Knox students were tough, informed, and even critical. Yet they were asked with respect and sensitivity to our guest. The questions reflected an understanding of a central tenet of our campus community, well expressed in the following excerpt from the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities in the Faculty Handbook, which is reprinted in the Student Handbook:

"Perhaps the best general guiding principle for any residential academic is one which emphasizes tolerance for a diversity of ideas and the necessity of mutual sensitivity and respect in interpersonal relationships. Special care should be taken to avoid actions or words which suggest racial prejudice, sexism or prejudice of any other nature. ... Common courtesies and respect for the dignity of others go a long way toward making a community what it ought to be."

Let us now move forward together toward what will be an exciting Commencement and celebration of the Knox College Class of 2007.

Roger "

Staff action[edit]

The staff of TKS printed an apology in the May 10 issue of the paper. The apology was referenced on the front page of the paper and subsequently continued as a Thoughts from the Embers.

Board of Publications Hearing[edit]

Main page: TKS hearing

The hearing was held at 4pm on May 24, 2007. The official verdict was guilty, but there was only a warning issued. The verdict also stated that the TKS staff handled the mistake very well after publication.

See also:[edit]