We smell censorships afoot.
Jim Landers, president pro tempore of the Board of Student Communications, the publisher of the Collegian, proposed a change in the BSC bylaws on Oct. 30 that would allow the Board to punish vulgar language.
The most drastic change in the policy would fall under the “Protected Speech” section of the BSC bylaws.
Currently, the clause reads “University officials cannot . Censor or punish the occasionally use of indecent, vulgar, or so called ‘four-letter’ words in student publications.” The word “punish” would be removed from this clause under Landers’ proposal.
We won’t remark on the irony of changing policy to allow the punishment of speech under a section supposedly devoted to protected speech.
The result of said change would be to enable the BSC to punish language such as that found in our now infamous Sept. 21 staff editorial.
This, of course, would be an exercise in de facto censorship. Students would have the right to print without oversight, but then be fired for it if the Board so chooses.
It would be safe to assume that any action taken by Board against a student editor would send a clear message to future editors that there are limits to what they are allowed and not allowed to say.
This move would also set a poor precedent for a collegiate free press across the country.
Anyone who’s taken a journalism or law class can see there’s an ethical breach here.
Jim Landers is a CSU faculty member. He is also currently occupying an office that is traditionally supposed to be held by a student member of the Board according to the BSC bylaws.
Landers, being a faculty member of a state institution, is a representative of the university as a whole, and his actions are representative of a direct interference by the university of editorial content.
What’s more, this change was proposed after the editor in chief of our paper was dismissed from the meeting.
Granted, McSwane admits it was a choice, the fact that he was offered early leave before a change of this magnitude was presented raises serious ethical questions.
In addition, the introduction of these changes as a topic of discussion is not listed as an item of business in the meeting agenda, which makes it seem as if either a) the Board was trying to hide it or b) it wasn’t brought up properly in the meeting.
Either way, this move is a gamble for the Board with serious negative implications for students’ rights.
We hope the BSC weighs these options before they decide to welcome a First Amendment battle.