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No. 4: The expletive

April 17, 2017

A list of the top 10 memorable issues of student publications during my teaching career.

Near the end of the 2001-02 school year the campus police were floating to create parking lot of police vehicles behind the campus police station and how to raise the $80,000 to do it: by using money generated from parking tickets. Outspoken student body president and student trustee Nassarin Bonyadlo had a few choice words about the plan.

When she referred to the yellow-jacketed citation officers with an expletive, she dared the reporter to quote her. A split newspaper staff decided that because of who was saying it, she should be quoted.

I have always taught that it is disingenuous to play games with profanity by using dashes and other symbols in using the words. If you decide that the context requires the word, then stand behind your decision. The audience knows the words, so use them. If you can’t stand behind them, don’t use them at all.

It certainly had an impact. The police chief, and quite a few others on campus, wondered “how I could let them print such a word.” Many of them wanted me fired.  My response to that kind of thing has always been, “how could I NOT let them.” My copy of the United States Constitution’s First Amendment does NOT read, “Congress (government, and I am a government employee) shall make no law … abridging freedom of the press, unless it is for a student newspaper.” (The 1989 Supreme Court decision put limits on the high school press, not the college press.)

I required the staff to attend the next college board of trustees meeting and sit there and listen to the discussion that was bound to ensue. Some board members certainly would not have minded my head on a pike that night. Sure, they told the student trustee that this reflected poorly on her, but the wrath was directed at the adviser of the student newspaper. Their public discussion of an employee probably violated board policies, but they referred the issue to the college president for investigation.

Once again, I was called into the president’s office. I explained the paper’s policies on the use of expletives and how the staff had discussed the pros and cons of using the word.  And I explained that their reason for using it had everything to do with WHO said it and her obvious dare to be properly quoted. If it had been a student other than the student body president/trustee they decision likely would have been different.

Despite being under fire herself for other issues, the college president felt that I had acted appropriately, even if she disagreed with the outcome and that was the end of it, officially.

PREVIOUSLY: 10: The execution, 9: We don’t need no headlines, 8: The student who died, 7: It was just a matter of time, 6: Daddy come home, 5: 911

NEXT UP: 3-D

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