by Joel Hardi
Marty Beard's distribution on campus two weeks ago of
3,060 copies of a letter of apology to 1997 Hanszen Alumna Allison Price Fine
made startingly public what had been widely rumored at Rice since last spring
-- that Beard and Vivek Rao, 1996-'97 editors in chief of the
, had been found guilty of sexual harassment and harassment for
publishing an April Fools' Day parody publication called the "Rice Trasher."
Beard, then a junior, and Rao, then a senior, were found in May by Assistant
Dean for Student Judicial Affairs Patricia Bass to have violated Rice's sexual
harassment policy by publishing an "article" titled "Alice N. Whine makes
`Hustler'" which mocked the September 27, 1996
honored as one of top 10 `Glamour' '96 College Women."
Beard and Rao claimed that the "Trasher" article was a parody of the previous
article and not intended to harm Fine, who argued it was meant to retaliate for
her involvement in organizing an open forum to discuss the November 8, 1996
backpage titled "Rice Women are Like ..." and the campus
climate for women.
Fine stated in her final statement to the Judical Affairs subcommittee which
heard the case that the "Trasher" article "substantially interfered with my
welfare and academic performance and created an intimidating, hostile,
offensive and demeaning educational environment." The article, she held,
included graphic sexual commentaries about her, such as describing the criteria
for a "
Top Tit list" as "willingness to hook up," "blow job
proficiency, followership, mindless giggling [and] breast size."
Beard said that the sexual nature of the piece was not meant to single out
Fine, because the entire 1997 "Trasher" had a sexual theme. She also confirmed
that the "Trasher" staff felt that substituting
was an appropriate way to spoof the original article, because
both magazines focus on images of the female body. Beard and Rao argued that
the article's fake names and outrageousness made it obviously untrue and
satirical, and that parodying a public figure is protected under the First
Rao, a graduating senior, was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service
before he could receive a final transcript while Beard was initially suspended
for a semester, put under disciplinary probation for the remainder of her time
at Rice and ordered to perform community service as well. Both students
maintained their innocence and appealed to Vice President for Student Affairs
Zenaido Camacho, but he allowed the decision to stand.
Beard's suspension was deferred, however, by Camacho, on the condition that she
distribute an approved apology letter, and that she serve on an
committee charged with examining the
's relationship to the
Beard's letter broke the rule of confidentiality that governs all student
disciplinary matters in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and
Privacy Act of 1974. Rao said he is outraged that his rights were violated.
"Now that it's gone public like this, people are going to get the wrong
impression of my character," Rao said. "This could interfere ... with my
ability to pursue a career in medicine. Sexual harassment is a very serious
concern." Rao feels that, because Beard's letter was part of her punishment and
Camacho approved its wording, the university is at fault. "It's one thing for
the participants -- the students -- to make this info public, but it's another
thing entirely for the university to do so."
decided not to report the story in depth because so many
of the people concerned declined to comment. Future reports will follow.
This item appeared in the News section of the September 19, 1997 issue.