Missouri State University: Investigation of Student Paper for Editorial Cartoon


Missouri State University

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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."