Missouri State University (Formerly Southwest Missouri State): Assault on Press Freedom
At Missouri State University, administrators investigated a faculty advisor, Professor Wanda Brandon, and student editor, Mandy Phillips of its campus newspaper, The Standard, for publishing an editorial cartoon that a Native American group found "offensive." Jana Estergard of SMSU's Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) contacted Professor Brandon to request a meeting about a complaint regarding The Standard. The complaint absurdly alleged that The Standard had violated a religious freedom law, a civil rights act, and university policy, all simply by publishing a cartoon. Professor Brandon refused an OEO proposal of "mediation" to settle the issue and contacted FIRE, who wrote the school arguing that punishing the newspaper staff was a clear violation of their rights to freedom of speech and press. A day later, SMSU's general counsel replied, insisting that "Dr. Brandon has not been subjected to an investigation." He claimed, "the issue is education, not free speech."
- "Threats, Coercion, and Bullying at Missouri State," June 9, 2009: This short documentary covers FIRE's case at Missouri State University, where social work student Emily Brooker was threatened with expulsion after she refused (as a matter of personal belief) to send a signed letter to the Missouri state legislature in favor of homosexual foster parenting and adoption. This violation resulted not only in a federal lawsuit (which the school settled) but also in an official report that found that a culture of intimidation rife in the school's School of Social Work. For instance, many students and faculty stated a fear of voicing differing opinions from the instructor or colleague, and bullying was used by both students and faculty to characterize specific faculty. The 12-minute documentary features interviews with Brooker, faculty at MSU involved in the case, and Missouri state legislator Jane Cunningham.
- "Press Freedom Under Assault at Southwest Missouri State University," March 26, 2004: Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU), a public institution bound by the First Amendment, is investigating its campus newspaper, The Standard, for publishing an editorial cartoon that a Native American group found "offensive." SMSU has refused to rule out a formal hearing on the matter, has requested that The Standard's faculty advisor and editor-in-chief attend mediation to discuss the issue, and, according to the editor-in-chief, has contacted the paper to "advise" it that even reporting on the administration's intervention in this case could violate university policy.
- "Cartoon draws ire of group; Newspaper adviser caught in fallout,"
by Tracie Dungan, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 30, 2004
- "Under the Radar: Political Correctness Never Died,"
by Cathy Young, Reason, July 1, 2004
- "Campus Censorship,"
by Charles Haynes, Naples Daily News, May 17, 2004
- "University Finds Nothing Corny About 'Offensive' Editorial Cartoon,"
by Jim Brown, Agape Press, April 1, 2004
- "Free speech dilemmas; Free speech 'zones' and 'codes' go from campus to court,"
by Gary Young, National Law Journal, January 12, 2004