Rocky Mountain Sigh
McSwane, in his effort to prove a point, placed the financial status of his newspaper in jeopardy, as 18 advertisers have already pulled the plug, with a sum of $50,000 in revenue at stake. It should come as little solace then that a company already printing t-shirts with his now infamous slogan purchased $300 worth of space in The Collegian.
The Board of Student Communications, composed of six students and three faculty members, erred by masking the realities of professional journalism that McSwane and his peers were bound to learn along the way. Why not force McSwane to come to his own conclusion that free speech is not absolute, and even if his message was constitutionally protected, its exercise carries serious real world consequences?
I'm not apprised of McSwane's talents as a writer, but his judgment as an editor obviously demands refinement, and this will not occur if he is out of a job. My guess is that if left to his own auspices, he would have written a retraction, begged for current advertisers to stay on board, and in the process learned a valuable lesson in a training ground for professional journalism.
On another level, how sad is it that we live in such a polarized environment that freedom of speech has become a partisan issue. Shame on the College Republicans for leading the charge for McSwane's ouster. I fondly recall penning my own op-ed pieces critical of President Clinton during my college days, and expect that they were received warmly by the Republican contingent at the University of Wisconsin. While I substituted substantive arguments for petty one-liners and four-letter words, the exercise of political speech should be afforded the highest levels of First Amendment protection, both on college campuses and at major dailies. The five freedoms transcend our ever divided two-party system.
Here's hoping that McSwane fights his dismissal with legal representation, and if vindicated, learns a valuable lesson. Tasering the student editor for his boneheaded exercise of free speech was as inappropriate at CSU as it was in Gainesville. It is nothing less than cruel and unusual.