Connecticut College Newspaper Cartoon Called Racist, Sexist

The student-run newspaper at Central Connecticut State University is under fire for publishing a cartoon this week that critics call racist and sexist.

The three-frame comic, titled "Polydongs," features two characters who mention locking a "14-year-old Latino girl" in a closet and urinating on her. It was published in Wednesday's edition of The Recorder, a weekly newspaper distributed free on campus.

"We are outraged about this cartoon, which only dehumanizes women and especially Latino women," said Francisco Donis, a psychology professor and president of the university's Latin American Association.

The Student Media Board discussed the cartoon at its meeting Friday, and members of the Latin American Association and Latin American Student Organization met separately to discuss their response.

Some plan to seek the removal of student editor Mark Rowan and want the university to take other steps to make the campus more welcoming to Hispanics and other minority groups.

"A lot of Latinos don't feel very welcome here at Central," Donis said. "In the last few years, the environment here at Central has deteriorated."

About 5 percent of the university's 9,600 undergraduates are Hispanic, according to university figures. The campus is in New Britain, a racially diverse city of 71,000 people about 12 miles southwest of Hartford.

Rowan, 21, was also editor in February when the newspaper was criticized for publishing a satirical opinion piece titled, "Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It," that called sexual assault a "magical experience" that benefits "ugly women."

The editorial's author lost his spot at the paper and apologized, but Rowan remained. The university created a task force that recommended more training for its student journalists, purchasing libel insurance and creating a student-run alternative paper or Web site.

Rowan, who plans to graduate in December, said lingering anger over that controversy is adding to outrage over the cartoon. He said he did not know if he will be asked to resign.

Criticism is coming largely from faculty members, not students who recognize that shock humor is more commonplace in their generation, he said.

The paper's editors reviewed the cartoon before it was published and determined it was no more offensive than some episodes of "South Park" or "Family Guy," he said, two television shows known for off-color humor.

"I'm not surprised that the faculty have a problem with it, because the humor gap is huge from generation to generation," Rowan said. "Every generation shocks the generation after it."

The comic featured a phone conversation between a triangle-shaped character and square-shaped character, and makes reference to "Juanita," described as "that 14-year-old Latino girl tied up in the closet."

A disclaimer across the bottom of the strip says, "The Recorder does not support the kidnapping of (and subsequent urinating on) children of any age or ethnicity."

Rowan would not identify the cartoon's artist, who he said is not connected to the university.