NEW JERSEY — A student humor magazine at Rutgers University that published a cartoon many found offensive received full funding after the paper argued that a student government-imposed funding cut violated their First Amendment rights.
Livingston College Governing Association President Gus Sara said he proposed the budget cut for The Medium after students and administrators complained about the paper.
The Medium received national attention in April after publishing a cartoon of a carnival game, “Knock a Jew into the oven,” on the front page of a Holocaust remembrance week issue. The paper later published an apology.
“I did not think it was going to pass,” Sara said about the funding reduction, which passed a week after the cartoon was published. “I just decided I would put it out there to let the community know that somebody spoke up.”
Medium business manager Ned Berke said the governing association reduced the paper’s funding from about $11,000 last year to approximately $4,500, despite the paper requesting $22,000 for the current year.
Two deans attended the meeting in April, condemning the paper and suggesting the governing association develop policies on how funds are allocated.
Sara said he specifically asked one dean if he would suggest that the association address the Medium’s funding. Sara said the dean said no, because that would be a response to the content of the paper. Courts have said that a publication’s funding cannot be cut based on content.
The paper appealed to the university in July, citing the First Amendment. “We thought what they did was illegal and unconstitutional and we weren’t going to take it quietly,” Berke said.
The decision, the school told Berke, was the governing association’s and the paper would have to appeal to the association.
After the paper appealed, the association held a confidential vote to avoid possible conflicts of interest and so everyone could vote the way they truly wanted to, Sara said.
The paper received all of its requested funding in September.
Sara said he sees the process as a learning experience.
“I’m glad now that we restored the funding, but I’m glad the statement was made,” he said. “They have their funding and it was just a good learning lesson for everyone.”