Student government threatens censorship of country’s largest yearbook

MICHIGAN — Despite a landmark ruling by a federal court of appealsthat prohibited censorship of the Kentucky State University yearbook justthree weeks ago, editorial control of the country’s largest student yearbookis up for grabs.

The Michigan State University Student Assembly will vote today on abill to strip editorial control of the student yearbook from the staff.

Rianne Jones, the editor of the Red Cedar Log, currently hasfinal authority over the yearbook’s content. But if the bill before theassembly is enacted, it would give the student assembly discretionary powerover the book’s content.

The bill requires a two-thirds vote of the assembly to override actionsof the yearbook staff that the assembly considers inappropriate.

The bill would also establish a diversity managing editor position onthe yearbook staff.

Chrystal Price, the Black Student Alliance representative to the studentassembly, along with Melanie Olmsted, the Women’s Council representative,introduced the bill Jan. 19 in an effort to ensure more coverage of minoritiesin the yearbook.

Two similar bills were proposed in December by the Native American StudentOrganization representative to the assembly, who criticized the yearbookstaff for its scant coverage of minority issues.

Jones said she and her staff have made efforts throughout the year towork with members of the assembly to ensure that minority organizationsare featured in the yearbook.

“Everything they’ve ever asked us to do, we’ve done,” Jones said. “Theywanted more minority representation so we added an extra campus life spreadand switched three dorm stories to deal with minority issues. We also calledminority organizations five more times than the other regularly registeredstudent organizations were contacted.”

If the bill is passed, Jones said she would consider filing a lawsuitchallenging its constitutionality.

“It bothers me that our student government would even try and breakgovernment rules,” she said. “I do not object to what they’re asking for,but I hope that they realize they cannot legally require me to put themin the book.”

The Red Cedar Log has the highest circulation of any collegeyearbook in the country. This year it is scheduled to publish 21,000 copies,according to Jones.

Michigan is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals forthe Sixth Circuit. On Jan. 5, that court ruledthat Kentucky State University officials infringed on students’ First Amendmentrights by censoring the campus yearbook.