Publications board president at Colo. State resigns

Landers had proposed change that would have allowed board to punish use of profanity in student paper

COLORADO -- The interim president of Colorado State University's Board of Student Communications resigned Friday, withdrawing his proposal to change the BSC bylaws to grant the board increased power to punish student publications for the use of profanity.

James Landers announced he was stepping down from the board in an e-mail to The Coloradoan, a local newspaper, citing tensions between him and the student-run newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Collegian, over the role of the board. Landers had argued that the board could exercise the same power over The Collegian as a publisher would have over a private paper, even though the board operates as part of the public Colorado State University system.

The board admonished Collegian Editor in Chief David McSwane last month for running the highly publicized "Taser This, Fuck Bush" editorial in its Sept. 21 edition.

Landers told The Coloradoan he withdrew the proposal because "prospective changes in the status" of the newspaper's relationship to the university and the role of the board in student media would render the change in the bylaws moot.

"In the interim, however, BSC clearly lacks the authority traditionally vested in a publisher -- in this instance, to safeguard the interests of student media," Landers told The Coloradoan.

Landers said McSwane was acting as "de facto publisher." That, he said, was unacceptable.

Landers did not return a message left today by the Student Press Law Center.

Landers proposed amending the board's bylaws earlier this month to allow it to punish a student publication for occasionally using profanity. The existing bylaws state that university officials cannot "censor or punish the occasional use of indecent, vulgar or so called 'four-letter' words in student publications." Landers' proposal would have struck "or punish" from the phrase, expanding the power of the board to penalize student publications for content similar to the Sept. 21 editorial in the future.

McSwane told the Denver Post Wednesday he was considering a lawsuit if the board had enacted the change, saying it would amount to censorship.

McSwane did not return a message left today by the SPLC.

Under the board's bylaws, three faculty and seven students should fill its seats. With Landers' departure, there are six students and one faculty member. Landers is the second faculty member to step down in the wake of the editorial.

Jeff Browne, director of student media at CSU, said Landers' mention of "prospective changes" referred to a possible review of the bylaws by the university administration. Browne said one option under consideration would be to make student publications independent, but he said there have been no formal proposals yet.

Browne said a workgroup five years ago explored making student publications independent, but the idea was never adopted. This time, Browne said, things might be different.

"University and student media are both amiable to look at that possibility again," Browne said.

For More Information

  • Board at Colo. State considers changes to publications policy News Flash, 11/8/2007
  • Colo. State editor will keep his job News Flash, 10/5/2007
  • Editorial at Colo. State curses Bush, puts editor's job in jeopardy News Flash, 9/24/2007

  • Colorado, Colorado State University, news, The Coloradoan, The Rocky Mountain Collegian