Former editors of The Maneater face possible university repercussions

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 6:54 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Two student editors for The Maneater, MU's campus newspaper, are facing more than just criticism for the highly controversial April Fools' edition

Abby Spudich, former managing editor, and Travis Cornejo, former editor-in-chief, said they have been notified by the MU Office of Student Conduct to schedule hearings related to possible violations of the university's standards of conduct.

Spudich resigned from The Maneater staff on Tuesday, and Cornejo stepped down Wednesday afternoon.

"There has been contact, and there will be a hearing in regards to disciplinary action," Spudich said. "I'd like to know my rights before I start any type of hearing."

Cornejo said he has been reviewing the M-Book, a rules and regulations book for MU, in order to prepare himself for a hearing and better understand any violations that could have occurred. 

He said he is waiting to learn more during a preliminary meeting with a representative from the MU Office of Student Conduct. 

After reading the conduct procedure, Spudich said she is aware that expulsion is a possible outcome. 

"I don't know what I would do if I were expelled," Spudich said. "I don't know how I would be able to move forward." 

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, said expulsion should not be an option in a matter of free speech.

"The First Amendment gives you a civil right to be derogatory and profane," Goldstein said. "As a public entity, if the university took steps to discipline speech that is protected by the First Amendment, they could open the university up to a lawsuit for civil rights violation."

Goldstein said that although people are allowed to be upset, the state cannot discipline individuals for speech that is legal. 

According to the procedure outlined on the Office of Student Conduct website, a hearing would be led by the Student Conduct Committee, the "body on each campus which is authorized to conduct hearings and to make dispositions under these procedures."

During a hearing, students have a defined set of rights, including the right to be present and the opportunity to have an adviser or counselor present for consultation, according to the rules of procedure.

Students also have an opportunity to question any testifying witnesses present and make any statement to the committee or explanation for the conduct in question.

The rules list the following evidence that may be available for examination: 

  • University evidence: University witnesses are called upon or written reports of evidence are identified. Then, the committee may question any witnesses. With permission, the student or adviser or counselor may question the presented evidence. 
  • Student evidence: If the student has not chosen to do so earlier, he or she may now elect to make a statement to the committee about the charge. Then, the student may present evidence through witnesses or written memoranda. Questioning of the witness or evidence may occur at any time by the committee. 
  • Rebuttal evidence: The committee may allow the student or University to offer rebuttal of the other's presentation. 

At noon Wednesday, Cornejo posted an apology and letter of resignation on The Maneater's website. Despite being unaware of the content in the April 1 edition, he said he was "not wholly without blame." He said he had been consulted about ad placement inside the issue.

He also said he struggled with making a public statement about the matter to avoid "finger-pointing toward Abby." However, he accepted a measure of responsibility.

"I apologize if my lack of response came across as an apathetic attitude toward the matter of our April Fool's edition and for my actions in regard to the placement of advertisements inside the issue," Cornejo wrote.

In an interview Wednesday, he said his actions were not what his editorial board wanted or expected of him.

"I felt it would be what would be best for myself and the newspaper to resign," he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the MU Student Publications Committee met with Cornejo to discuss the situation.

According to its web page, the committee is appointed by the chancellor "to recommend to the vice chancellor for Student Affairs policies and regulations regarding the publication of the Maneater."

The committee comprises four faculty members, four Missouri Student Association student members, one Graduate Professional Council member, three ex officio and one support member.

"The meeting was held with various faculty and student members on the board in order to discuss the April Fools' edition and make recommendations as to what should happen," Cornejo said. 

Stephen Lombardo, chairman of the committee, did confirm the resignation of Spudich and Cornejo, but he did not discuss the meeting further. 

"I'm not really sure what The Maneater's next step is now that I've removed myself from the official capacity," Cornejo said. "It's up to the newspaper's staff to decide the remaining steps through the continuation of the year."

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton wrote a letter to the editor, which was published by The Maneater, denouncing the edition and urging the campus to treat others "with respect and dignity."

"The Maneater staff is taking responsibility for its actions. It is our responsibility as a community to work together to become a more civil and respectful Mizzou. My commitment is unwavering," Deaton wrote.

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John Schultz April 12, 2012 | 1:22 a.m.

Sounds like the students might want to contact the fine folks at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

(Report Comment)
Mal Reynolds April 12, 2012 | 11:08 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Louis Schneebaum April 12, 2012 | 1:20 p.m.

This is ludicrous. I picked up a copy of the 'Carpeteater' on campus when it came out and wasn't moved one way or the other by it. It went into the recycling bin without incident. Who decided to make a huge deal out of this? Does this ACTUALLY bother homosexuals? I haven't met any that were mad about it. Stephen Colbert, on his show the other evening, called 'gay Iowans' 'cob-gobblers'. Not controversial. If I were one of these editors, I would stand up and fight -- you didn't do anything wrong to gays and I would be willing to wager everything that the ones who are acting the most indignant about this are heterosexuals, particularly those who are politically calculating cowards.

(Report Comment)
Ann Murphy April 12, 2012 | 2:41 p.m.

MU has a long and infamous history of squelching free speech, such as trying to restrict it to the conveniently out of the way "speakers' circle" when in previous cases the courts have ruled that the entire campus is a free speech area. It probably shouldn't have surprised any of us that the campus radicals of the 1960's have grown up to be the heavy-handed administrators of today. Seig Heil!!!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 12, 2012 | 3:10 p.m.

Well, Louis, allow me to tell you a story - a true one. I am, as you know, not affiliated with MU, so I only recently noticed that the masthead of the "Maneater" says it was founded 1955.

In 1955, 1954, 1953, etc. on the week of St. Patrick's Day a student at MSM (now MS&T) could for a nominal fee buy a newspaper called "The Green ****" that, starting with [then] University of Missouri President Elmer Ellis and going down the chain of command through the MSM administration, faculty, and a selection of BMOC students, accused all those worthies of just about everything vile and disgusting you can imagine. Their sexuality was questioned, they were portrayed as idiots, etc. The annual St. Patrick's Queen of Love & Beauty was accused of being ... well, use your imagination.

The publication was professionally printed on high quality paper. Its extreme raunchiness aside, it contained rather clever prose (many plays on words). Writers and printer were unknown. The Green ****" was sold by students taking cash orders in advance. Delivery was off campus. I assume the administration may have been aware of the project.

So? So the students at the "Maneater" are on the carpet partly because the newspaper is an official organ of the campus and its staff members names are known. What charges could be brought against a publication that had no official connection with a campus and whose originators and printer were unknown? Technically, many charges might have been possible, but first you would need someone to charge.

I guess it's like that old Smothers Brothers song: "Different Strokes for Different Folks."

PS: Should anyone be confused as to what word **** means, consider that each year for more than 100 years St. Patrick has ridden up Pine Street in Rolla standing on a manure spreader.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor April 12, 2012 | 3:51 p.m.

To be unfunny or offensive, that is the question...

(Report Comment)
Gerald Shelnutt April 12, 2012 | 6:21 p.m.

Stupid! Unknot your knickers. God don't you just love liberals?

(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum April 13, 2012 | 1:20 a.m.

Gerald Numbnutt -- I'm a "liberal"; if by "liberal" you mean someone who wants a millionaire's income and capital gains to be taxed at no less than 30%, single-payer healthcare, environmental regulation, clean energy, and the government out of people's business where liberty is REALLY concerned.

So how was your comment relevant to this topic again?

(Report Comment)

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