Pittsburgh Students battle racism

PITTSBURGH – It was a ticking time bomb bred in segregation and fed by arrogance that exploded on the front pages of two student publications in affluent communities recently. Racism, misogyny and homophobia blew up in student newspapers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and at North Hills High School (NAHS). Students and the administration at CMU took action. The high school has so far been silent.

In late March, about 30 parents met in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh to discuss a response to anti-affirmative action editorial and an unsigned letter to the editor that ran in the NAHS newspaper, The North Star. Both the editorial and letter argued that affirmative action programs are biased against white people.

No one from the school administration, school board or student editorial staff attended. NHHS is 93 percent white, the newspaper staff is all white and male. The parents’ group decided to draft a letter to Superintendent Lawrence A. Butterini.

“The turnout (at the parents’ meeting) here said that there are other parents who are concerned,” said Mary Perdue, who is African American and whose daughter is a student at NAHS. “This environment so often makes our children uncomfortable as minorities in the system.”

Members of the school board said that they were aware of the editorial and letter but that they had not discussed them nor was a discussion scheduled.

Within days of the racist incident at NAHS, The Tartan, CMU’s student newspaper, whose staff is all white and all male, ran its annual April Fools’ Day edition – 12 pages of violent racism, homophobia and degradation of women. The next day a multiracial group of students protested on the campus. The Tartan’s staff gathered up 1,500 of the 6,000 copies in circulation. Cartoonist Bob Rost was fired. The editor, Alexander Meseguer, publicly recanted and is under pressure to resign. After publishing an apology April 5, the newspaper ceased publication for the term. That same day, CMU hosted a forum on the incident. University President Jared Cohon has convened a commission to provide recommendations for disciplinary action and other changes.