Long before the current global cartoon controversy, FIRE was involved with a case at Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) involving another divisive editorial cartoon. It prompted outrage from students, caused the university to intervene, and resulted in a faculty press advisor losing her job. What, pray tell, did this horrible cartoon convey?
Behold! (The faint of heart may want to shield their eyes.)
Yep, that’s it: the dangerous cartoon that lead to investigations, protests, and the eventual dismissal of a devoted professor as faculty advisor of the student newspaper.
I think the problem might have been that people didn’t get the joke. As the cartoonist who drew the “offensive” cartoon said at the time, “The point of the cartoon has nothing to do with Native Americans or Pilgrims…I was trying to reflect a common Thanksgiving tradition of a host griping about what their guest has brought to the dinner.” Yeah, it’s not that funny, but thank goodness the First Amendment does not make an exception for jokes that flop.
As I said at the time, “If publishing an innocuous satirical cartoon is sufficient to set off secret investigations and proceedings, then truly no speech is safe on America’s college campuses.”
Little did I know that punishing faculty advisors who refuse to exercise control over the content of the student newspapers they serve would soon become a hot new trend in campus censorship. Check out today’s press release about the latest situation at Le Moyne College for more.