A four-day dispute over the use of questionablelanguage in a safe-sex column ended Sept. 19 when administrators concededcensorship would disrupt the learning environment of journalism students.
Seminole Community College administrators agreed to continue coveringthe printing costs for the student newspaper after delaying publication of itsfirst edition for four days. In a statement, school officials said “it is not inthe best interests of the College to generate a prolonged, controversial disputeover this student learning issue.”
The Scribe column in questionused strong language to criticize women who do not use contraceptives for theprevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Thecolumnist, Robin Mimna, described having sex as “shagging ass.” Shealso referred to women who do not use birth control as “stupid bitches.”Administrators objected to these phrases and other words in the column including”scumbag.”
Vice President Hank Hurley had led efforts by the schooladministration to censor Mimna’s column. Betty Porter, the newly hired newspaperadviser, brought it to his attention hours before the newspaper was to beprinted Sept. 16.
College spokesman Michael Garlich told the OrlandoSentinel in the Sept. 16 edition, “the matter is one of upholding standardsof quality and responsible journalism established in both the paper’s traditionand official policy.”
The newspaper has no policy prohibiting certainwords, said Margaret Acker, The Scribe editor. This type of language hasbeen printed in other editions of the paper, she said. Students at the collegewould better understand Mimna’s opinion, Acker said, if the words were left inthe column.
Acker insisted there would be no chance of an agreementunless the column was printed as is. If the administrators tried to censor thenewspaper this time, Acker said, how many more times would they do itagain?
The issue was published Sept. 23.
SPLC View: For over 30years, the law has been clear: at a public college or university, studenteditors have the legal right to determine the content of their publications.School officials have every right to criticize and distance themselves from thedecisions student journalists make, but the editor — not thecollege’s vice president or anyone else — decides what isappropriate for her readers.