Utah students pull goodbye prank in campus paper

May 9, 2010

A prank literally spelled out in the University of Utah student newspaper has prompted administrators to put a hold on nine students’ transcripts.

The seniors wrote goodbye columns for The Daily Utah Chronicle’s April 28 edition. The first letter of each column is in larger type; together, they spell out two words referring to genitalia.

Editor Rachel Hanson, one of the nine seniors, said she’s concerned the administration’s response could violate freedom of the press.

"It was childish and stupid, but it’s not a cause for institutional notice," said Jim Fisher, an associate professor of communication and the paper’s faculty adviser. "It, at the very least, has a chilling effect, and at the most could be censorship. I don’t agree with the behavior at all, but I support their right to be idiots."

The Chronicle has a tradition of hiding vulgar or racy phrases in the year’s final edition. But in the past, the words were better hidden and in some cases have been tamer, like "drunk."

Students last week got e-mails informing them of the holds on their transcripts and requesting a meeting with the associate dean of students.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Student Press Law Center wrote a letter to university officials defending the students’ actions.

Schools: University of Utah