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At UB, trouble over tattoos

Lisa Khoury had something to say and, as an editor for the University at Buffalo student newspaper, she had a forum in which to say it. So she did. She went way out on a limb and wrote in the Spectrum last Saturday that women shouldn't get tattoos, that they look better without them. Her piece was titled "Why Put a Bumper Sticker on a Ferrari?" Agree or disagree, this was a reasonable and unobjectionable opinion piece. Right?

Well, not so much. Hell, as it turns out, hath no fury like a whole university -- no, a whole world -- full of tattooed people scorned.

The story went viral, and Lisa Khoury got flamed, blasted and just about driven out of school on a rail in more than 700 nasty comments and more than 600 wicked Facebook posts.

One example: "So incredibly retarded I don't even know where to begin. who are you to lecture people on morals? what makes you the (expletive) authority? what a dumb b----."

And another: "GROSS.....I am a woman with tatoos.....I also have my BMA, am a mother, wife, professional, room mother, cookie mom for my daughters Girl Scouts, sister, daughter.....with that being said....they all love me for me...not my looks, weight, or clothes....ME! oh and as far as class goes, well clearly you have none!"

Her editor, Matthew Parrino, found it necessary, in an editor's column Thursday, to both apologize for and stand behind the piece -- a tricky piece of business. Here's an excerpt:

"Readers’ comments have nearly destroyed (Khoury) and it’s awful. She’s my staff member and I can’t do much to help her. She’s kind and hard-working and always willing to attack a story or take on a tough assignment. She wrote the tattoo piece as a counterpoint to another staff writer’s piece on why she gets tattoos. In her zeal to win the argument, perhaps she got carried away.…

What has baffled me more than anything is how much people care about this issue. Last month, we reported that this university gave money illegally to (then) County Executive Chris Collins’ political campaign and that UB President Satish K. Tripathi broke SUNY regulations. We got almost no response.

I respect people’s attachment to their tattoos and the personal and emotional value they hold for many. But as a student hoping to make my career as a journalist, I would also like to believe that the public cares about issues that extend beyond themselves."

We'd all like to believe that, and sometimes it's even true.

Lisa, tough it out; this, too, shall pass.

*****

Twitter: @SulliView
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