Relieve readme of its funding

It is outrageous that students at Carnegie Mellon are repeatedly subjected to the crassness that marks the pages of readme. Worse still is that we pay thousands of dollars for it, year after year. The Joint Funding Committee (JFC), the group of undergraduate and graduate students that allocates student funds each year, should think carefully about whether or not readme is a worthy steward of student funds.

readme was allocated $9066 of student money this year. That’s about one-and-a-half times what SPIRIT or the Women’s Center each received, two-and-a-half times what Dancer’s Symposium received, three times what SUMMIT or the Oakland Review each received, five times what ALLIES and cmuOUT each received, nine times what Amnesty International received… you get the idea. Out of 127 student organizations that received funding from JFC, readme took home more money than 103 of them. It doesn’t make sense.

Over the past few years, readme has lost much of the quality humor it once had and now relies on tired stereotypes and vulgarity. The February 7–13 issue reached a new low. The issue leads with the article “Student Senate Debates Sodomy Ban.” A prominent graphic lets the reader know that, more specifically, sodomy among gay men is the focus of the piece. The focus on and prejudice against gay men is further confirmed by the callous point-counterpoint, which features in large type the words: “Stop being gay, Faggy Rogers.” In this context, the lead article essentially compares a sexual practice of gay men to smoking cigarettes, a habit that is severely damaging to one’s health and widely considered to be rather repugnant. The publication gives gay men cause to feel uneasy and unwelcome at Carnegie Mellon. The February 14 issue included yet another distasteful article mocking homosexual men. Such cold-heartedness is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, this is only one in a series of dramatically offensive articles and a continuum of tasteless trash — the New Hauschwitz article that made local news last semester is another obvious example. Over and over, the excuse has been that readme’s staff has no nefarious intentions, that its members mean no harm — and that may be true. But that doesn’t cut it. It is not enough for readme’s staff to be personally comfortable with the publication’s content. It is incumbent upon them to proactively avoid causing harm. The staff must be confident that content will not cause undue discomfort to others. Until the members of readme’s staff accept this responsibility, they deserve no funding from the student body.

Satire is one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of social critics. Properly crafted, satire serves to spur its audience to acknowledge, examine, and even change the wicked, hypocritical, and destructive ways of its society. But satire is also one of the hardest weapons to wield. Try as they may, past and current readme staffs have demonstrated that they cannot adequately navigate these treacherous waters. readme has failed time after time to deliver any real value to our community through its attempts at satire. Instead we are routinely subjected to the insensitive articles.

In the interest of full disclosure, in 2004 former editors of The Tartan failed to prevent a disastrously botched attempt at satire from causing harm to our community. Editors took responsibility, the organization stopped publishing for the rest of a school year, and we made sure it would never happen again. For years, readme has refused to do that. It’s time for the JFC to do it for them.

AB can advertise its events in other, far more cost-effective ways. Students will be better off without being subjected to readme’s demeaning material. And other, more worthy organizations will find themselves able to do more with new funding. The choice is clear.