Student Opinion: Students react to giraffe controversy

EMILY HONEN

The singular issue causing the most debate in this year’s edition of the Tawasenthan isn’t the size of the sports section vs. the arts section – it’s a senior ad starring a younger graduating senior posing with a recently expired giraffe.

The ad, which also features the student carrying a gun, has generated such controversy that the local news has commented on it, including the Times Union, NY Daily News, and even the Huffington Post. The student featured in the photo has been ruthlessly attacked on many forms of social media, and unfortunately he hasn’t been the only target. The student staff of the yearbook have been criticized for allowing the picture to be published, with Superintendent Marie Wiles referring to the incident as an “oversight.”

Most of the controversy arose from two different aspects of the picture: one being the dead, kneeling giraffe, and the other being the hunting rifle carried by the student. According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the population of giraffes in Africa plummeted from 140,000 in 1998 to fewer than 80,000 in 2012, with two sub-species considered endangered.

In an article published by the Times Union on May 29th, Dr. Wiles stated that “In the future, we will take a little bit closer view of how we review that section of the yearbook.” After all, senior ads are usually fairly harmless – baby pictures or something of the like, and aren’t usually scrutinized by the staff.

Most of the articles written on the subject also appear to take the side of the giraffe, calling the photo “disgusting” and “tasteless” and referring to hunters showing off their prey as “nimrods.”

However, all of the blind hate soon led to another level of controversy: a wave of support for the student, his rights, and his family’s sentimental values, with even more students taking to Twitter to express their solidarity with the student and overall tiredness of the entire affair.

Students and teachers with all kinds of opinions are weighing in on social media and during school to express their support, disgust, or (most overwhelmingly) apathy towards the incident.

“I think that a lot of people are overreacting to this,” said senior Kevin Swintek. “You can think what you want about it, but you have to respect other people’s hobbies and what they like to do. Whether or not you like the fact that they’re a hunter–think and say what you want, but be respectful.”

“Who cares? He gave the meat to a tribe,” said Will Moody. Another senior, Mark Fyvie, agrees. “They’re making it way too big of a deal. They put the picture in the yearbook, but he killed it a while ago.”

Some people, however, feel strongly that the photo should not have been allowed, as they feel that the photo represents a violation of animal rights. “I believe that this type of material should not be allowed in a school publication of any kind,” said sophomore Lakota Lustig. “I guess there’s more to it, but I don’t like it. I am a vegetarian, and I guess it just doesn’t sit right with me.”

Most students, however, have defended the student and the yearbook staff. “I don’t think it is wrong at all,” said senior Nick VonDollen. “The business of the yearbook is the business of the school, the students, and the parents. No one else.”

Most of the students at GHS seem to have reached the same, very mature consensus: get over it and move on.

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