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The Blue & Gray Press | February 22, 2018

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Students petition Bullet to change procedure and policies

By MARIAH YOUNG

Three students created a petition that calls for the University of Mary Washington student newspaper, the Bullet, to change its policies and procedures and issue an apology for an anonymous Twitter account that imitates the name and likeness of the Bullet.

The students, including former Student Government Association President Jeremy Thompson, started the petition Tuesday in response to recent articles published by the Bullet. The other two students are also former members of SGA, Sean Simons and Gigi Abdulmoniem.

At the time of publication, 154 people had signed the petition.

According to the petition, stories reported by the paper have negatively affected UMW.

“We believe that the Bullet has not covered all student arrests in the same equal manner,” said Simons.

The petition calls for a clear policy regarding what actions and individuals are published in the newspaper.

It states, “targeting individual students based on their personal profile is unfair and undermines the credibility of our paper.”

“While I understand that the Bullet needs to publish what it thinks is newsworthy, I signed the petition because of an overall pattern of what any reasonable person would understand as racist and offensive,” said Elijah Willis. “Jokes about Black men being token, Black basketball players being singled out for behavior that many white students also do, conflicts of interests that are undisclosed to the editors, all contribute to a culture of racism and fear that looks like a pattern of denial.”

Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion Leah Cox believes that the petition will not solve everything, but will allow the community to start a conversation.

“I’m excited to see that students are being proactive in a healthy way,” said Cox.

Bridget Balch, editor-in-chief of the Bullet, agrees that this dialogue is beneficial to the paper’s relationship to the university.

“We at the Bullet are happy to hear the concerns of the UMW community,” said Balch. “As a student newspaper, we are a part of this community and strive to accurately and fairly represent our school.”

The petition also objected to an anonymous Twitter account that imitates the Bullet. The petition claims that the “incendiary, homophobic and unprofessional tweets… reflect poorly on our student body.”

“The parody twitter account to which the petition refers is not associated with the Bullet, nor do we condone any of its actions,” said Balch. “The Bullet aims to report news without bias and treat those affected by coverage with sensitivity and respect. Many comments on the parody Twitter are in direct violation of our standards.”

The petition also calls for more coverage of UMW students’ achievements.

It states, “Moreover, when prospective students and families visit UMW, we want them to pick up our paper and see the many accomplishments of our students, not the alleged and unfortunate actions of a few.”

“We welcome the dialogue and will take the concerns under consideration as we move forward,” said Balch.