FLORIDA — A four-day dispute over the use of questionable language in a safe-sex column ended today when administrators conceded censorship would disrupt the learning environment of journalism students.
Seminole Community College administrators agreed to continue covering the printing costs for the student newspaper after delaying publication of its first edition for four days. In a statement, school officials said “it is not in the best interests of the College to generate a prolonged, controversial dispute over this student learning issue.”
The Scribe column in question uses strong language to criticize women who do not use contraceptives for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The columnist, Robin Mimna, described having sex as shagging ass. She also 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 school administration to censor Mimna’s column. Betty Porter, the newly hired newspaper adviser, brought it to his attention hours before the newspaper was to be printed Sept. 16.
Porter referred the administrators to an entry in the Model Code of Ethics for Collegiate Journalists about usage of questionable language. Both Porter and school officials agreed at that time the language was not suitable for publication.
College spokesman Michael Garlich told the Orlando Sentinel in the Sept. 16 edition, “the matter is one of upholding standards of quality and responsible journalism established in both the paper’s tradition and official policy.”
The newspaper has no policy prohibiting certain words, said Margaret Acker, The Scribe editor. This type of language has been printed in other editions of the paper, she said. Students at the college would better understand Mimna’s opinion, Acker said, if the words were left in the column.
Acker said she was unaware of Porter’s actions until administrators refused to approve the newspaper’s printing costs thus preventing the issue from being published.
As editorial staff and administrators attempted to find a resolution, administrators offered three separate compromises before making their concession. Administrators first instructed that all objectionable words should be edited from the column. Then they suggested to only delete one or two words.
“The third offer was to have an outside source, not from the school, decide if it goes in,” Acker said. “But they didn’t say who would decide who this person was.”
Acker insisted there would be no chance of an agreement unless the column was printed as is. If the administrators tried to censor the newspaper this time, Acker said, how many more times would they do it again?
The issue will be published Sept. 23.