A crowd of over 50 students and faculty filled the hallway outside Pipe Dream’s office Monday evening in reaction to an opinion piece published in Friday’s paper. The group, which included leaders of prominent cultural organizations on campus, came prepared with suggestions detailing how they believed Pipe Dream should respond to the incident. Editor-in-Chief Christina Pullano and Managing Editor Paige Nazinitsky emerged from the office several minutes after the crowd had assembled to present a prepared statement.
The opinion piece in question, “Dressing as Another Race Isn’t Always Offensive,” authored by Julianne Cuba, a senior double majoring in history and Chinese, discussed the use of blackface in Halloween costumes. The issue has been made nationally relevant by actress Julianne Hough’s recent appearance in blackface, portraying Crazy Eyes from the Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.”
Cuba presented a viewpoint criticizing recent media condemnation of Hough’s action as racist by arguing that, “By creating racist claims out of something so innocent as a Halloween costume, we are further perpetuating race as an all-inclusive issue when it doesn’t have to be.”
The gathering in response to the opinion piece was coordinated in part by senior computer science major Joseph Tannenbaum, who described the group’s organization process and demands. “I contacted the various cultural groups on campus and the student group, that I don’t believe is SA chartered, called the Confronting Racism Coordinating Committee. I also contacted the Women’s Student Union and a number of other organizers who have done stuff in the past.”
“My goals and our goals were to present the Pipe Dream with three demands in response to the publishing of the article on Friday.” The demands were to dismiss the author of the opinion piece, to establish a leadership position at Pipe Dream specifically assigned to recruit writers from various cultural groups, and lastly to announce the adoption of these policies along with a complete apology in Tuesday’s paper.
Pullano responded to the group’s concern of bias in the article selection process: “Opinion columnists are chosen based on their applications, which take the form of sample columns. Applicants submit a sample column to the Opinion Editor, along with several other potential column ideas. Columns are judged in terms of their quality, originality, and relevance to campus. Pipe Dream also publishes guest columns by non-staff members who wish to address issues pertaining to BU students.”
After Pullano’s initial statement and the groups demands were presented, there was an informal airing of grievances by the crowd which eventually developed into a dialog. Tensions were escalated by the large number of comments presented at once by the crowd, still amassed in the hallway. An agreement was made by Pullano to hold a formal meeting with campus cultural group leaders on Tuesday, where these issues would be discussed in detail.
In reaction to the evening’s events Shehryar Qazi, a third year sociology graduate student, stated, “I’m glad this article ticked people off enough to bring them out here tonight.” He echoed sentiments forwarded by several in the crowd, expressing concern over Pipe Dream’s coverage of race-linked issues on campus including SUNY 2020, support of President Stenger, and perspectives on issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations. “The world is going one way; Pipe Dream and the university are going the other.” When asked what role Pipe Dream management should play in opinion article selection, Qazi said, “It’s not a bathroom wall; we need an editorial policy.”
Ese Olumhensy, President of the Black Student Union and a senior English major added, “Pipe Dream is a leading publication on campus, so for them to put that opinion out there, whether or not it was one person, represents the collective entity that is Pipe Dream. It was incendiary, and then for the Pipe Dream to embrace it, by publishing it, is a strike on so many levels.”
Pipe Dream, one of many on-campus publications, is an SA-chartered organization that aims to provide a voice for students and draw attention to issues and events pertinent to the Binghamton University community.
Summarizing her sentiments following the event, Pullano said, “A lot was said tonight, and I’m looking forward to being able to have an open conversation about the statements made about Pipe Dream. Tonight’s event was highly emotional, but it was effective in getting a message across. I believe the conversation tomorrow can and will be a more tempered and productive one about how to move forward from this point.”
Note: Pipe Dream felt it was necessary to provide coverage of this event, but that it would pose a conflict of interest for any staff member to write or edit the article. Therefore, Pipe Dream asked WHRW 90.5 FM to cover the event, both for publication in Pipe Dream and for release on the WHRW news program.