An article about places students have hooked up on campus published in last week’s Sex and Relationships Issue of The Statesman received a great deal of backlash. This led to further criticism of the Sex and Relationships Issue’s content, The Statesman’s choice to photograph unclothed student models and the publication of the issue as whole.
The Sex and Relationships Issue has been a part of The Statesman for seven years now. It is published annually because sex and relationships are such an integral part of any campus community. It is our job as a college paper to accurately report news to the student body in an interesting and compelling way, whether it be seriously or humorously. The survey referenced in the article not only demonstrates the prevalence of sex and sexuality in our college culture, but also the willingness for students to share their sexual stories. As a student paper, it is our responsibility to report on topics of interest to our audience.
The Statesman is editorially independent from both Stony Brook University and Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism. Nothing we print should be seen as a reflection of those institutions. A majority of our funding comes from advertisements from local businesses, and only a fraction comes from the Undergraduate Student Government, an organization from which we are also editorially independent.
Additionally, our credibility as a newspaper does not change based on an issue that gets published once a year. Every editor and staff writer here at The Statesman takes journalism very seriously, and we have proven that time and time again. We have reported on a variety of important stories over the past few years: Title IX, the university administration, national politics on campus, the Athletics Department, and Campus Dining. The Statesman broke the national story of Professor Helmut Norpoth’s prediction of the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and we have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, the New York Press Association, the Press Club of Long Island and the Fair Media Council for our reporting. Our publication of the Sex and Relationships Issue does not change any of these things. Rather, it is a testament to our ability to engage in a more playful, and no less important, form of journalism.
Regarding the issue’s content, reporting about sex can have many goals: to inform, to give advice, as well as to entertain. There is value in informing our campus about the education of consent, and a great deal of beauty in the honest, raw discussion of what it means to be in an open relationship. That being said, there is also humor and entertainment in the discussion of where students hook up on campus or what song is good to have sex to, and one does not take away from the other. Rather, it adds diversity to the issues and brings levity to the still-taboo topic of sex.
In regard to the photos that coincide with our stories, students should never feel ashamed for taking pride in their own bodies. We offer this photo shoot as a way to accurately illustrate our stories, and every year students have come to us on a voluntary basis, eager to participate. Students have also written about their decision to model for the Sex and Relationships Issue and the importance that the photo shoot held to them.
The Sex and Relationships Issue is a staple of our newspaper. We are here to act as a voice for our campus community, for faculty and students alike. We stand behind our content and the publication of this year’s Sex and Relationships Issue, just as we have for our issues in the past, and just as we will for our issues in the future.