COLORADO — Two weeks and two board meetings after printing an editorial saying “Taser This … Fuck Bush,” the editor in chief at The Rocky Mountain Collegian can rest assured that he will keep his job.
The Board of Student Communications at Colorado State University at Fort Collins handed down its decision Thursday night following a hearing where members questioned Editor in Chief David McSwane and other editors about why the editorial was allowed to run.
The board decided to “admonish” McSwane, saying he violated sections of the board’s bylaws prohibiting the publication of “profane or vulgar words” in opinion writing.
James Landers, interim president of the board, sent a letter to McSwane after the decision criticizing McSwane’s decision to run the editorial, calling it “unethical” and “unprofessional,” but acknowledging that the piece was protected speech.
“By definition, the September 21 editorial was an expression of opinion, which we regard as protected by the First Amendment,” the letter said.
McSwane could not be reached for comment Friday, but he told The Collegian he was satisfied with the outcome.
“The last two weeks has been a series of falls and triumphs and emotional stress,” McSwane told The Collegian. “I think they made the best decision they could have in their situation — they know that they need to uphold the First Amendment and what it means to students. They also have to save face in this media circus.”
Chelsea Penoyer, chairwoman of the College Republicans at CSU, called the ruling a poor decision.
“I think it was a slap across the face to all those who were offended,” Penoyer said.
Penoyer said the article has damaged the university, and McSwane should have been punished.
Because of the lack of action by the school, Penoyer predicts the editorial will affect its ability to raise money from donors.
“CSU will probably see a further decrease in funding from donors and alums,” Penoyer said. “I think that might end up speaking for itself, because people are so unsatisfied with the decision.”
The 350-member College Republicans organized a petition prior to the meeting in an effort to oust McSwane, gathering almost 500 signatures. Penoyer said she does not rule out the possibility of further campaigns to remove the editor over the editorial.
The editorial ran in the Sept. 21 issue of The Collegian. Soon afterward campus groups began calling for McSwane to step down from his position. On Sept. 26, the Board of Student Communications held a public meeting to allow McSwane to give his explanation and let the editorial’s critics voice their opinions. In that meeting, the board decided to hold a closed-door session to decide whether to remove McSwane.
Since the editorial ran, the newspaper has lost almost $30,000 in advertising revenue, according to The Coloradoan, a local newspaper.
The Collegian ran an editorial Friday praising the board’s decision.
“In a time when it seems our civil liberties are disappearing faster than the polar ice caps, it is reassuring to know that our Bill of Rights still amounts for something,” the editorial said. “This has been a difficult time for all of us, but we hope that it is something we can soon put behind us as we continue our quest to grow as students, journalists and human beings.”
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