After a Friday editorial on page four in the Collegian that said “Taser this . F—BUSH” sparked national uproar and controversy regarding free speech, Editor in Chief J. David McSwane will go before CSU’s Board of Student Communications (BSC) Wednesday to defend his job. The expletive was spelled out about twice the size of a headline.
BSC has authority sanctioned by the Board of Governors of the CSU System to fire the editor in chief.
McSwane and the Collegian Editorial Board are standing by the decision.
“The Editorial Board felt very strongly that its time college students, especially CSU students, start talking about issues,” he said. “We’re zealots for freedom of speech and we felt that after Andrew Meyers on the University of Florida campus was pulled from his mic and abused . that we started getting people to talk.”
But he added that the board didn’t realize the full consequences of the decision.
“There were some unintended consequences,” he said. “I think we’ve caused a lot of grief to the advisors and we’ve certainly affected our own advertising.”
An undisclosed amount of Collegian advertising money has been lost since the editorial was printed.
McSwane said that the editorial wasn’t about the president, but about freedom of speech.
“I think it’s been blown a little bit out of proportion, it’s been turned into more of a political issue,” he said. “Historically our “Our Views” are not in favor of President Bush. Very often we slam him on that same section, so the issue wasn’t what we said, it was how we said it. To us, it was a free speech issue.”
The Collegian will not be suspended by the university.
CSU President Larry Penley issued a statement regarding the editorial that said while the university doesn’t have the authority to halt printing of the publication, it expects deeper journalistic integrity from its student journalists and does not support the editorial.
“While student journalists enjoy all the privileges and protections of the First Amendment, they must also accept full responsibility for the choices they make,” Penley said in the statement.
One CSU teacher expressed his support for the Collegian’s choice with a word of caution.
“I would support the paper no matter what it said,” said local attorney and journalism instructor Lee Christian. “But I fear that it is going to lose some integrity among the community.”
Christian applauded the Collegian editorial board for taking the initiative to start such controversy in an industry that he said has become less bold than it should be.
“It shows that he (McSwane) has got guts,” he said. “I don’t know that the mainstream media is doing what’s necessary to promote freedom of speech.”
He said some other publications refuse to spell the f word out because they fear social ramifications. “This shows what power that word has when newspapers are afraid to print it.”
Christian had advocated for free speech in a Collegian article printed the same day as the controversial editorial.
One CSU student called into question the sincerity of the Collegian’s editorial decisions, mentioning a mistake in a news story several weeks ago.
“The first article, when they used “s—” got more attention than it should have and to print something like this makes me wonder if they are really sorry for the first article,” said Jessica Petrisak, a biological science freshman.
But McSwane says that is a completely different issue as a hard news story.
But others students support the editorial board’s actions.
“My opinion is that they should say whatever . they want to say,” said Matthew Johnson, an open option freshman.
CSU College Republicans issued a written request Saturday for McSwane to resign his position.
“This is not a free speech issue,” the request stated. “(I)t is an issue of journalistic integrity.”
The group will hold a petition signing in the Plaza asking for McSwane’s resignation Monday.
Senior reporter Aaron Hedge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.