Profane Language Puts Student Editor's Job On Line

Editorial Raises Eyebrows, Controversy At CSU

A four-word editorial with a four-letter word in it is sparking a spirited discussion on free speech at Colorado State University.

The Rocky Mountain Collegian published an editorial on page 4 of the paper Friday which read "Taser this ... F*** Bush."

The expletive was spelled out.

The last two words were in bold type, larger than most headlines. A caption below said, "This column represents the views of the Collegian's Editorial Board."

"I think they went over the line a little bit, but it's free speech and they're allowed to write what they want," one student told 7NEWS.

The editorial comes fresh on the heels of freedom of speech issues that arose from the Tasering of a Florida student at a Sen. John Kerry speech.

Collegian Editor David McSwane said a group of seven student editors discussed the statement for several hours before agreeing to publish it.

"We felt it illustrated our point about freedom of speech," McSwane told 7NEWS. "I think we could write 250 words and ramble on and I don't think anyone would pay attention."

In a letter to the University Community and Collegian readers, McSwane wrote, "While the editorial board feels strongly with regard to First Amendment issues, we have found the unintended consequences of such a bold statement to be extremely disheartening."

McSwane told 7NEWS that ads from the CSU Bookstore were pulled from the paper in response to the editorial. Bookstore managers declined to comment.

The Associated Press Saturday reported the student newspaper has lost $30,000 in advertising and had to cut pay and other budgets by 10 percent because of fallout.

CSU released a statement Friday that said in part, "While we understand that the editorial in today's Rocky Mountain Collegian is upsetting and offensive to many people, CSU is prohibited by law from censoring or regulating the content of its student media publications."

McSwane said that the editorial wasn't about the president, but about freedom of speech.

"I think it's been blown a little bit out of proportion, it's been turned into more of a political issue," he said in a story posted Monday. "Historically our 'Our Views' are not in favor of President Bush. Very often we slam him on that same section, so the issue wasn't what we said, it was how we said it. To us, it was a free speech issue."

The Collegian will not be suspended by the university, he said.

CSU Republicans mounted a petition drive on Monday calling for McSwane to resign.

Also on Monday, the newspaper printed an opinion piece defending the story. Click here to read the op-ed story on The Rocky Mountain Collegian.

The Board of Student Communications has the authority to hear any and all grievances and complaints related to student media operations. The BSC can also remove student managers, like McSwane, if it deems necessary.

A special meeting of the BSC is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. to hear student comments regarding the editorial.

McSwane said he knows his job is on the line.

"I plan to be honest," he said. "Our intentions weren't 'Hey, let's upset the community.' It was, 'Let's get college students to talk about freedom of speech.'"

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