Maneater Madness, Part 4: Mizzou to Investigate, Possibly Expel Editors Over April Fools’ Issue

In a plot twist as unexpected as it is repugnant, the University of Missouri has informed the former top editors of The Maneater student newspaper that they are being investigated for “possible violations of the university’s standards of conduct.”

The Office of Student Conduct investigation is apparently focused on the editors’ role in the creation of the paper’s recent controversial April Fools’ issue.  As The Missourian confirms (hat tip J-School Buzz), one of the potential outcomes of the investigation is expulsion.

(There will now be a brief pause before I resume writing this post so that I can scream at the moon hovering over greater Tampa until my voice goes hoarse.  I can stand to live in a world that continues to produce Nicolas Cage movies.  I can stand to live in a world that enables Paula Deen to promote uber-sugary foods and then hawk diabetes drugs.  But a world in which Mizzou– home to one of the meccas of j-education in this country, the soon-to-be-HQ of ASNE, and the place from which Brad Pitt almost graduated until he took off for LA in his car– threatens student journalists’ First Amendment rights?  I’m not feeling it.)

To recap, Part 1: The Maneater publishes a special April Fools’ issue named The Carpeteater that meets with severe criticism from some readers for content deemed offensive to women and members of the LGBTQ community.

Part 2: Maneater managing editor Abby Spudich resigns, apologizing and accepting responsibility for the issue’s failings and offensiveness. 

Part 3: Maneater editor-in-chief Travis Cornejo also resigns, feeling it was in his and the paper’s best interests due to the blowback surrounding the issue– even though he had no role in overseeing it due to a tradition that keeps the EIC out of the loop about April Fools’ content. 

And now, Part 4: University administrators decide to get involved, requesting Spudich and Cornejo attend hearings to determine if they broke school rules.

In an open letter addressed “To the Mizzou Community,” published in Tuesday’s Maneater, university chancellor Brady Deaton wrote, “All of us strive to make the University of Missouri a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment and it saddens us when we see actions that hurt members of our community who may already feel marginalized. . . . Last week the Maneater published a paper filled with articles that were thoughtless, disrespectful, and hurtful to many in our community. . . . The Maneater staff is taking responsibility for its actions.  It is our responsibility as a community to work together to become a more civil and respectful Mizzou.”

To the Chancellor: That respect you mention should be directed first at freedom of the press, free speech, and a greater acknowledgment that as you put it “staff is taking responsibility for its actions.”

Student Press Law Center attorney advocate Adam Goldstein: “The First Amendment gives you a civil right to be derogatory and profane.  As a public entity, if the university took steps to discipline speech that is protected by the First Amendment, they could open the university up to a lawsuit for civil rights violation.”

J-School Buzz: “It is a ridiculously obvious case of censorship for the university to even consider punishing free speech on Mizzou’s campus, no matter how offensive. . . . Two editors have published sincere apologies, left their jobs, and been criticized across the Internet for their actions. . . . They have learned their lesson. The university dragging these two former editors through the mud any further will do nothing to help cement those lessons and everything to inhibit free speech on a campus that so desperately needs it.”

Related

Maneater Managing Editor Resigns at Missouri Over ‘Carpeteater’ April Fools’ Issue Flap

Maneater Editor-in-Chief Also Resigns, Although He Was Not Involved in April Fools’ Issue

Student Press Trend: Editor Resignations; Is This a Good Thing?

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  1. […] two top former editors of The Maneater student newspaper.  Earlier this week, Mizzou officials sent letters to the former eds. requesting they attend student conduct board hearings focused on their role in the creation of the […]

  2. […] Maneater Madness, Part 4: Mizzou to Investigate, Possibly Expel Editors Over April Fools’ Issue […]



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