David McSwane, editor of the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the student newspaper serving Colorado State University, was scolded by CSU's board of student communications at an October 4 meeting for authorizing a September 21 editorial reading "FUCK BUSH." But he didn't lose his job over the controversy at the heart of the latest Message column.
McSwane canceled a press conference originally scheduled to take place at 9 p.m. on the 4th, following the meeting, and thus far, the only news organization he's spoken to is his own. This October 5 Collegian article concludes with the following:
"The last two weeks has been a series of falls and triumphs and emotional stress," McSwane said.
He thinks the Board made the right decision.
"I think that they made the best decision they could have in their situation - they know that they need to uphold the First Amendment and what it means to students," McSwane said. "They also have to save face in this media circus."
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McSwane looks forward to get back to the grindstone and start publishing without the pressure of possibly losing his job. He also joked that he could now start going to class again.
As for CSU's actions, they call to mind decisions made at Columbia University in regard to a September 25 campus visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Although the university was heavily pressured not to allow Ahmadinejad to deliver a talk there, Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger insisted that he be allowed to do so on free-speech grounds -- but then blasted the twisted leader in a sternly worded introduction.
Likewise, CSU journalism prof James Landers, current head of the communication board, wagged his finger at McSwane for violating two prongs of the school's ethics code (profanity use in editorials and poor judgement), yet allowed the editor to stay in his post. That decision was certainly cost effective: Attorney David Lane, who had agreed to represent McSwane, told anyone who'd listen that he'd sue CSU if officials delivered a smackdown, and he would have won without breaking a sweat. But it was also the right thing to do. If the First Amendment protects Larry Flynt, it sure as hell does likewise for a promising young journalist like McSwane, whose undercover work while in high school revealed severe abuses among military recruiters. Read the story he wrote for Westword on that topic here.
The editorial was hardly profound. But if every editorial writer who fell short of profundity got the sack, about 90 percent of those practicing the profession would be out of a job overnight. -- Michael Roberts