MISSOURI — The University of Missouriabandoned its student conduct investigation Thursday of two former studentnewspaper editors who recently resigned over a controversial April Fools’edition of The Maneater.
MUstaff attorney Kate Markie said the university is recalling its previousletters summoning Abby Spudich, former managing editor, and Travis Cornejo,former editor in chief, to a preliminary meeting. Markie said the students werebeing notified via new letters sent Thursday afternoon, but declined to commentfurther.
Spudichand Cornejo resigned Tuesday and Wednesday respectively after backlash from students, faculty and staff over the issue —called The Carpeteater — which wasintended to be humorous.
“I’mrelieved that I can move past that chapter of this whole April Fools’ ordeal,”Cornejo said. “I can focus on resolving all the other matters regarding theApril Fools’ issue.”
Cornejois graduating in December. He had not yet received the letter, but said he wasworried the controversy would follow him into the future.
“Anytime you receive an official notice from the university, of course you take itseriously,” he said. “Of course I had concerns about the possible outcomes.”
MarshaFischer, Spudich’s attorney, said the general counsel’s office advised herearlier in the day that the university was withdrawing the summons.
“I’mpleased that we can get this situation over this,” Fischer said, adding thatshe did not think Spudich would require her assistance any further.
EarlierThursday, Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center,sent a letter calling on MU torethink its decision to pursue punishment.
“Whileundoubtedly offensive to some readers,” LoMonte wrote, “the content of theparody newspaperindisputably was within the boundaries of the First Amendment.”
LoMonteexplained that under the standard set by Tinkervs. Des Moines Independent Community School District, universities can onlycensor student journalists based on content in very rare situations, suchas if content incites unlawfulactivity.
“Nothingin The Maneater parody edition even remotely approaches the Tinker
threshold,”LoMonte wrote. “Accordingly, punishment of the speech will not withstandconstitutional scrutiny.”
Spudichoversaw production of the issue, with Cornejo taking a backseat, as istradition regarding the April Fool’s edition of the paper. The new editorialboard wrote in a statement of apology that the paper was originally to be called TheHumaneater, but was changed somewhere along the way.
The Maneater has already canceled plans forthe 2013 April Fools’ edition.