Missouri State University: Investigation of Student Paper for Editorial Cartoon

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Missouri State University

At Missouri State University (then called Southwest Missouri State University), administrators investigated a faculty advisor, Professor Wanda Brandon, and student editor, Mandy Phillips of its campus newspaper, The Standard, for publishing an editorial cartoon that a Native American group found “offensive.” Jana Estergard of SMSU’s Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) contacted Professor Brandon to request a meeting about a complaint regarding The Standard. The complaint absurdly alleged that The Standard had violated a religious freedom law, a civil rights act, and university policy, all simply by publishing a cartoon. Professor Brandon refused an OEO proposal of “mediation” to settle the issue and contacted FIRE, who wrote the school arguing that punishing the newspaper staff was a clear violation of their rights to freedom of speech and press. A day later, SMSU’s general counsel replied, insisting that “Dr. Brandon has not been subjected to an investigation.” He claimed, “the issue is education, not free speech.”

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    Just an hour’s drive from the Arkansas border, Southwest Missouri State University has come under the scrutiny of a Philadelphia-based civil liberties advocacy group for its handling of an editorial cartoon published last fall in the student newspaper.The Nov. 21 cartoon in The Standard, titled “The 2nd Thanksgiving,” depicts two American Indians approaching a Pilgrim woman bearing a gift of a large can of corn and a can opener.The caption has the Pilgrim saying: “Gladys, the Indians are here and it looks like they brought corn … again … “The student group American Indian Leaders of Today and Tomorrow filed […]

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  • Press Freedom Under Assault at Southwest Missouri State University

    March 26, 2004

    SPRINGFIELD, MO —Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU), a public institution bound by the First Amendment, is investigating the faculty advisor and student editor of its campus newspaper, The Standard, for publishing an editorial cartoon that a Native American group found “offensive.” SMSU has refused to rule out a formal hearing on the matter, has requested that Standard faculty advisor Professor Wanda Brandon and editor-in-chief Mandy Phillips attend “mediation” to discuss the issue, and, according to Philips, has contacted The Standard to “advise” it that even reporting on the administration’s intervention in this case could violate university policy.   “SMSU’s attack […]

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