On Monday the Albionian, Albion College’s yearbook, circulated around campus.
Four days later, it has been recalled by the college after it was identified that a derogatory phrase about gay men was published within a student’s response to their “Favorite Albion experience.”
Vice President of Marketing and Communication Cathy Cole said, “There was a complaint made about one of the comments in the book and we have temporarily pulled them until we can determine what we’re going to do.”
The comment, given by Bailey Burbank, ‘22, says her favorite Albion experience was a moment in a Spanish class when they watched a movie that featured a gay sex scene. Burbank’s quote says it was “awkward” to be “watching this all together, and when the silence got a little too much, I just said ‘But no homo, right?’”
The Pleiad spoke with Burbank, who identifies as queer. She called the comment “a joke,” before saying “I feel like a lot of the world is really sensitive on a lot of topics that I don’t think we necessarily should be anymore.”
Burbank said she has “some controversial opinions about the things we, as a society, get upset about,” and she feels that the reaction to the comment is unfair.
“If we can’t make jokes and bring humor to things that are difficult to deal with, we’re just stewing in it,” Burbank said. “Stewing in misery or negativity or trauma.”
The comment has been perceived differently by the administration.
Cole said her office “takes full responsibility,” and in light of the phrase being published, her office will be “going through cultural competency training immediately, and it will be ongoing.”
Cole also said that The Albionian is funded and published through the Office of Student Development, but is advised by Jake Weber, a communication assistant who works for the Office of Marketing and Communication.
According to Cole, Weber recently resigned from the position of Albionian adviser for reasons unrelated to the recent controversy.
Weber said the comment “was not idly passed through,” and she apologized for publishing it.
“I shouldn’t have put it in the book. There’s no question of that,” Weber said.
Weber also said she understood the comment as an encouraging take on the queer community.
“I made an error in judgment using the comment, but I feel like the context it was provided in was affirming,” Weber said. “I understood it as a call-out to people that try to put a straight explanation on something that is not heterosexual.”
Assistant Dean of Campus Life Sharese Shannon Mathis said that the publication of the “unacceptable” comment is the result of a lack of diversity in the staff who produced the yearbook.
Mathis said, “Without people from that community on your committee, you don’t have anyone internally to tell you that it’s wrong.”
Mathis also saw a need for more diversity in the groups represented by the yearbook.
“I feel like there’s a lack of diversity, and they missed the mark of representing our non-dominant groups,” Mathis said.
Mathis said some of her colleagues did not initially find the comment to be offensive, saying “I tried to educate some of my colleagues yesterday about the term.”
She said there was “an ignorance,” from some of her colleagues, “a frustrating ignorance.”
Ultimately the comment was deemed inappropriate and yearbooks were removed, a process that, Mathis said, is financially frustrating.
“My biggest qualm with all of this is that we spent a lot of money on this,” Mathis said. “With all the money we spend, there should be more attention to detail.”
The project, according to Cole, cost approximately $70,000.
Anaka McCoy, a Jackson sophomore who works for the Marketing and Communication office, said on Thursday someone from the Office of Campus Life directed her to put the yearbooks away because of “a misunderstanding,” before helping her “pack up the yearbooks and put them back in the closet.”
According to Mathis, it is uncertain whether the yearbooks will return to circulation, and if the comment will be removed.
“We’re not throwing them away because they cost too much money,” Mathis said.
A number of students also said they were upset with the overall poor quality of the yearbook. Names are frequently misspelled, photos are often incorrectly captioned and some people are misidentified.
Former member of the Pleiad and Albionian staff Savannah Waddick, Greenwick, Indiana junior, contributed photos to the yearbook. She said the substandard quality is due to a lack of students who are willing to produce a yearbook.
Waddick also said that Weber, the adviser, does not deserve full blame for the low-quality yearbook and the publication of the controversial comment.
“Honestly it’s not her fault that nobody is interested in working on the yearbook,” Waddick said. “She just needs a committee or group of students that’s committed to digital marketing to work on the yearbook and make it a success.”
Weber shares a similar feeling.
“I have been told for years that students don’t care about the yearbook,” Weber said. “This is a really embarrassing way to prove otherwise, but I’ll take it.”
Bella Bakeman also contributed reporting to this story.
Correction: The original publication of this article stated that Assistant Dean Mathis said that members the Office of Campus Life did not initially find the comment to be problematic. That statement was wrong, and has been corrected at 2:06 pm on Friday, Dec. 9.