Our View

Nov 132007

The Board of Student Communications, the Collegian’s publishing body, met again Monday to discuss a proposed change that would remove a clause in its bylaws restricting it from punishing the use of “indecent, vulgar or so-called ‘four-letter’ words in student publications.”

The move, proposed by a faculty member at the last BSC meeting on Oct. 30, is in response to the Collegian Editorial Board’s Sept. 21 editorial, which put the F-word next to the President’s name.

Before the BSC takes any drastic action, we again suggest they consider the poor precedent such a move could have for student publications across the nation.

This move would do nothing more than give a permission slip to the BSC to exercise de facto censorship on student media publications.

Jim Landers, BSC interim president and a CSU faculty member, said because this move will not prevent the publication of “offensive” materials, this is not an issue of censorship.

Landers should know better.

While the BSC is not asking for the power of prior restraint — the ability to stop the publication of so-called profane words — they are seeking the authority to punish speech after-the-fact. Sure, we can print what we want under the proposed revisions, but not without fear of being punished for said speech.

That’s censorship and in violation of the First Amendment, the very first thing to be added to the U.S. Constitution — a document that carries a little more weight than the BSC bylaws.

If a Board is given the power to punish vulgar or profane language, a second, implied power, is also granted — that of deeming what is and is not vulgar or profane.

Contrary to popular belief, vulgarity, by definition, does not refer only to swear words. Vulgarity can also refer to ideas.

At one time, equal rights between men and women was considered a “vulgar” idea, as was the idea of equal rights for African-American men and women. Interracial marriage was, too.

Give the BSC authority to tell us we can’t print the F-word next to Bush, what will be next? Can they then prevent us from criticizing the university? President Penley?

Landers is apparently comfortable giving the BSC, a branch of a state institution, this discretion.

We, however, are not.

Thankfully, our forefathers had the foresight to recognize that government should never be given this type of authority.

This is not a fight the BSC will win.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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