Wednesday, April 11

It seems that lately my alma mater has been up to no good. True, I left Western with a few, how to say this gently, negative opinions of the school. But as the past year progressed, I forgot about all the things that annoyed me and instead started to crave the carefree, crazy days of yore. Unfortunately, those good feelings have again been tarnished.

The first annoyance came by way of a sweepstakes-style envelope, claiming to be an URGENT!! letter from the UWO Alumni Relations department. Inside was a request for information, for everything from my updated address, phone number, and career status, to recent photos and a personalized message about my time at Western.

I was to send this all back to a P.O. box in Toronto and then presumably 6-8 weeks later receive an order form for the “UWO Alumni Guide Book, yours for only $49.99 plus shipping and handling!!”

All my classmates are on Facebook, of course, so I saw no need to participate in a book that would list me next to Bill Smith, class of ’77. But what was with the cheesy “don’t delay, reply today!” letter and the P.O. box in Toronto? (Western is in London.) Some simple research uncovered that the letter was written on behalf of UWO and the book was actually being created by an American company, Harris Communications.

And so, on one of my more feisty days, I called the real Alumni Relations department and demanded to know why I was being solicited by an American company to provide personal information for free, only to have it sold back to me. Why wasn’t this at least being done by a Canadian company, or, even better, why couldn’t Western employ their own graduates to create the book?

(I had also received an application for a UWO Alumni credit card that week, and politely inquired if giving my contact info to third-party companies was all Alumni Relations did.)

My concerns were all appreciated, with hopes that I would continue to be involved in alumni affairs. Thanks, Western. Now perhaps you could remove the pathetic postings by Vector Marketing from the “Full-time Marketing Jobs for Graduates” section of the career website?

But! The fun doesn’t end there! This week, another issue came to my attention, this time via Facebook. The Gazette, Western’s daily student-run newspaper, published a rather controversial “article” in their annual spoof issue. Under the premise of satire, the narrative was titled "Labia Majora Carnage" and detailed angry Women’s Issues Network members at Western staging a "take back the nightie" march. It cumulates with:

Upon seeing the chaos, London Police Chief Murray Faulkner stopped greasing his nightstick and intervened. He grabbed the loudspeaker from [Jennifer] Ostrich's wild vagina and took it into a dark alley to teach it a lesson. To Ostrich's dismay, the vagina followed, giggling as it said, "I love it when a man in uniform takes control."

(It should be noted that both names are badly-disguised pseudonyms which represent real people in London—the actual police chief and a female student involved in women’s rights on campus, who apparently also frequently protests inappropriate content in the Gazette.)

At the same time, the article was published under a pseudonym and the actual writers have not yet been revealed. Which is understandable: from my experience, those who delight in bad arguments, cheap shots, and ignorant opinions love the veil of anonymity. If you really think what you have to say is valid, you will always attach yourself to it.

I’ve been told that the creation of the spoof issue involved the newspaper staff writing stories while drunk. I believe this, because only stupid content comes out of drinking binges. True satire, truly hilarious writing and clever commentary on current events reads nothing like the content that the Gazette produced. The spoof article is both offensive and incredibly pathetic. It makes me ashamed for my school and for the newspaper. A newspaper I once wrote for. Euck.

The outrage sparked by the article has passed through Facebook circles and now has national coverage, with the CBC, Toronto Star, CanWest, SunMedia, and CTVglobemedia all reporting. So despite those who say that people are overacting about the article (and the Gazette maintains a rather lazy “it was a joke, get over it, we can’t please every minority, don’t take yourself so seriously!” attitude) the desire for resolution of this issue shows how important equality and respect for all is in this country.

Yes, stick to your contrived excuses Gazette staff—and remember to not take yourselves so seriously this spring when those same media companies decline you for jobs.