FLORIDA ‘ Stetson University administrators fired the entire student newspaper staff and suspended the paper’s production because they said an April Fool’s edition contained racist and sexist material.
University officials say the staff of The Reporter went too far with its spoof edition, renamed The Distorter, which included a sex-advice column written in Ebonics that satirically advocated violence toward women. Editor in chief Teresa Schwarz and sex columnist August Brown later apologized and offered to resign their positions, but administrators said that was not enough.
‘The staff has the responsibility to approve those documents and did so, so the recommendation was that they all be held responsible,’ said Jim Beasley, vice president for administration.
Beasley said the paper will be suspended until fall, when a new staff will be approved by the dean of students. He said the private university, which funds the newspaper through student activity fees, is the paper’s publisher and has authority over it.
Because Stetson University is a private institution, the First Amendment does not limit the school’s ability to censor student publications. Brown said that although the university can limit what students write, it does not mean they should do so.
‘We realized we crossed the line in the things we ran, but we were willing to atone for that and try to keep this kind of open forum we had at the school,’ Brown said. ‘The Reporter was the only open forum to discuss any kind of issues on campus. Now they’ve essentially gone and made it irrelevant to the student body.’