The two former top editors at The Maneater could possibly face expulsion from the University of Missouri for the paper’s offensive April Fools’ Edition.
According to the Missourian, the two former editors have been notified they must set up hearings with MU’s Office of Student Conduct for their roles in producing the April Fools’ Edition.
The Missourian reached out to our old friend Adam Goldstein of the Student Press Law Center for comment on the issue as a matter of free speech. What an awkward conversation that must have been, since Goldstein is the very same person who has roundly criticized the Missourian’s own unconstitutional Conflict-of-Interest policy and general terse response to outside criticism.
But no matter. Golstein told the Missourian what should be obvious to anyone who earned a passing grade in Communications Law (or is vaguely familiar with the First Amendment): “As a public entity, if the university took steps to discipline speech that is protected by the First Amendment, they could open the university up to a lawsuit for civil rights violation.”
It is a ridiculously obvious case of censorship for the university to even consider punishing free speech on Mizzou’s campus, no matter how offensive. And no one is defending the April Fools’ Edition, even (especially) the folks at The Maneater who edited and published the issue.
Two editors have published sincere apologies, left their jobs, and been criticized across the Internet for their actions. Their own university chancellor took them to task (in a very nice and classy way) in the pages of the very publication from which they have been tossed.
They have learned their lesson. The university dragging these two former editors through the mud any further will do nothing to help cement those lessons and everything to inhibit free speech on a campus that so desperately needs it.
UPDATES: The SPLC has written a letter asking the University of Missouri to terminate the disciplinary investigation of the former editors at The Maneater.
After this letter was published, it appears that the University of Missouri has opted out of its expulsion charges against the editors.