COLORADO — The interim president of ColoradoState University’s Board of Student Communications resigned Friday, withdrawinghis proposal to change the BSC bylaws to grant the board increased power topunish student publications for the use of profanity.
James Landers announced he wasstepping down from the board in an e-mail to The Coloradoan, a local newspaper, citing tensions between him andthe student-run newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Collegian, over the role of the board. Landers had argued thatthe board could exercise the same power over The Collegian as a publisher would have over a private paper, eventhough the board operates as part of the public Colorado State Universitysystem.
The board admonished Collegian Editor in Chief David McSwane last month for runningthe highly publicized “Taser This, Fuck Bush” editorial in its Sept. 21edition.
Landers told The Coloradoan he withdrew the proposal because “prospectivechanges in the status” of the newspaper’s relationship to the university andthe role of the board in student media would render the change in the bylawsmoot.
“In the interim, however, BSCclearly lacks the authority traditionally vested in a publisher — in thisinstance, to safeguard the interests of student media,” Landers told TheColoradoan.
Landers said McSwane was acting as”de facto publisher.” That, he said, wasunacceptable.
Landers did not return a messageleft today by the Student Press Law Center.
Landers proposed amending theboard’s bylaws earlier this month to allow it to punish a student publicationfor occasionally using profanity. The existing bylaws state that universityofficials cannot “censor or punish the occasional use of indecent, vulgar or socalled ‘four-letter’ words in student publications.” Landers’ proposal wouldhave struck “or punish” from the phrase, expanding the power of the board topenalize student publications for content similar to the Sept. 21 editorial in the future.
McSwane told the Denver Post Wednesday he was considering a lawsuit if the boardhad enacted the change, saying it would amount to censorship.
McSwane did not return a messageleft today by the SPLC.
Under the board’s bylaws, threefaculty and seven students should fill its seats. With Landers’ departure,there are six students and one faculty member. Landers is the second facultymember to step down in the wake of the editorial.
Jeff Browne, director of studentmedia at CSU, said Landers’ mention of “prospective changes” referred to apossible review of the bylaws by the university administration. Browne said oneoption under consideration would be to make student publications independent,but he said there have been no formal proposals yet.
Browne said a workgroup five yearsago explored making student publications independent, but the idea was neveradopted. This time, Browne said, things might be different.
“University and student media areboth amiable to look at that possibility again,” Browne said.
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