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Western U. paper pulls frosh issue over article encouraging students to date TAs

LONDON, Ont. - Western University's student paper is pulling its frosh issue from campus following complaints over articles it admits "appeared to promote excessive drinking, drug use and sexual advances on teaching assistants."

In a statement issued Wednesday, The Gazette's editorial board apologizes for what it called its "lack of judgment" in publishing the Aug. 19 issue.

The board says its goal was "to put out an entertaining issue for first-year students and Western as a whole," but that it clearly missed the mark.

It pledges not to distribute the issue during the university's orientation week and remove the offending articles from its website, though at least one could still be viewed Wednesday afternoon. The paper also says it will review its editorial practices in light of the incident.

One of the articles at the heart of the controversy, titled "So you want to date a teaching assistant?," encourages students to "get sexual" with TAs by leaving the top buttons of their shirt undone, among other things.

Critics — including the student council president and the London, Ont., university's provost — said the frosh issue seemed to incite inappropriate and potentially dangerous behaviours.

In a letter to the editor posted on the paper's website, Janice Deakin, Western's provost and vice president academic, said the paper crossed a line with the TA article.

"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," she wrote.

Student council president Matt Helfand, meanwhile, called for an investigation through The Gazette's advisory board, which he hoped would "ensure that, in the future, these topics are dealt with sensitively and with the utmost seriousness."

Frosh activities at other universities have also come under the microscope in recent years.

Outrage over a frosh chant at Saint Mary's University in Halifax last year that glorified non-consensual sex with underage girls has led the school to provide training to student leaders involved in orientation week activities.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly identified the school as the University of Western Ontario.

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