COLUMBIA — Former Maneater editors Abby Spudich and Travis Cornejo said Thursday evening that MU will not pursue disciplinary actions against them following the student newspaper's controversial April Fools' edition.
Both students said they received a call from MU's Office of Student Conduct on Thursday night telling them to disregard the scheduled hearings on possible violations of the code of student conduct.
In the letter Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, asked the university to immediately "pull the plug” on all disciplinary action against the former student editors.
LoMonte defended Spudich and Cornejo on constitutional grounds, citing Supreme Court cases Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District and Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri.
"Of all institutions, the University of Missouri should be the last university in America to need reminding that even highly offensive speech is constitutionally protected against disciplinary action," LoMonte wrote.
Spudich, former managing editor, and Cornejo, former editor-in-chief, resigned this week after renaming the April Fools' edition of The Maneater as "The Carpeteater," and printing several articles many students and members of the community considered offensive.
Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, said the organization hoped the letter would cause MU administrators to rethink their decision to pursue disciplinary action.
"If an institution takes the position that anytime someone publishes something that is offensive but constitutionally sound then it's OK to expel them, that creates a chilling effect on journalism," he said.
Goldstein said even the threat of government punishment for something someone said violates the First Amendment, and he hopes this doesn't happen again at MU.
"Mizzou should know better," he said. "There's just something different when you're talking about one of the best journalism schools in the country."
Additionally, Goldstein said that apart from being unconstitutional, the university's disciplinary actions didn't make sense, as the students had already resigned from their editorial positions. They must also deal with the effects their actions could have on future careers in journalism.
"Whatever they were supposed to learn from this, I think they learned it," Goldstein said.
As for the students, they're both relieved the university has decided to discontinue the investigation.
"I'm very relieved," Spudich said. "I can go back to living my life."