An article called "So you want to date a teaching assistant" has set off a furor at Western University, in Ontario. The article appeared in the special issue of The Gazette, the student newspaper, for new students. The piece described strategies such as Facebook stalking, dressing to attract T.A. attention, office hours visits, and so forth. Reaction has been intense -- most of it negative. The union that represents T.A.s at Western posted a response saying that the piece had essentially been "a guide on how to sexually harass another human being." The provost wrote a letter to the editor in which she said: "Not only does the spirit of the article run contrary to Western’s efforts to have a workplace and learning environment that is free from sexual harassment, it is disrespectful of the essential contribution graduate teaching assistants make to Western’s academic mission."
The new students' issue was also criticized for articles on alcohol and drug use, but most of the criticism has been about the article on teaching assistants. In a response published Tuesday in the newspaper, the editors noted that they have published serious articles on these topics in the past. "The Frosh Issue, as with all of our special issues, gives us a unique opportunity to address some of these same social issues in a more light-hearted, informal way," the response said. But the editors noted that they have listened to the criticism and realize that not everyone interpreted the articles in the way the authors intended. "Regardless of the specific controversies surrounding certain pieces, it should be clear that The Gazette does not encourage or condone sexual harassment, assault, other forms of violence, excessive alcohol consumption or unsafe drug use," said the response.