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Sudsy Wants You to Join the Oregon Commentator

“‘Tyler is totally right,’ Frohnmayer said.”

Well, as those of you who saw tonight’s Factor know, Bill O’Reilly came out against President Frohnmayer for his failure to take action against the Student Insurgent. The Commentator’s own Tyler Graf was on the program and bravely defended the Insurgent’s right to publish whatever they wish, even if they always seem to end up wishing for some combination of humorless anarchist ranting, tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories, and pictures of Jesus with a hard-on.

The ODE has a news article up about the Factor’s coverage:

[Tyler] Graf also conceded to O’Reilly that the images may have been intentionally offensive but argued that Frohnmayer had no legal ability to shut down the publication.

Frohnmayer agreed.

“Tyler is totally right,” Frohnmayer said. “Bill O’Reilly doesn’t know the first amendment from the back of his own hand, which is a shame because he takes full abuse of it.”

Mr. O’Reilly was, unfortunately, on the wrong side of this issue. While President Frohnmayer has his faults as University president, he has absolutely no say and, legally, no course of action to be taken on this particular issue. The unanimous Southworth Supreme Court decision of 2000 set the precedent that University administrations may not defund or otherwise punish fee-funded campus publications in a non-viewpoint neutral fashion. In other words, when it comes to campus media it is all or nothing: either you allow every sort of publication to be funded by the University or you allow none. From Southworth:

When a university requires its students to pay fees to support the extracurricular speech of other students, all in the interest of open discussion, it may not prefer some viewpoints to others. There is symmetry then in our holding here and in Rosenberger: Viewpoint neutrality is the justification for requiring the student to pay the fee in the first instance and for ensuring the integrity of the program’s operation once the funds have been collected. We conclude that the University of Wisconsin may sustain the extracurricular dimensions of its programs by using mandatory student fees with viewpoint neutrality as the operational principle.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this same decision also forbids universities from holding referenda on student groups, thereby preventing the student body from voting on which programs they’d like to be funded. The ASUO, voice of the student body though it putatively is, also acts as an arm – a tiny, shrivelled arm, but an arm nevertheless – of the state government.

The Commentator’s position has, for many years, been that no campus publication should be funded by the incidental fee, and neither should a lot of other things. We’d prefer it that no student on campus had to pay for the Insurgent, the Voice, the Siren, the Daily Emerald, or even the Commentator to publish political speech. Students come to the University of Oregon to take classes, not fund speech they disagree with. Of course, there are educational benefits (of the “here’s what not to do” variety, but still) to having publications like the Insurgent around, even when they publish offensive things. Indeed, as Tyler Graf pointed out in an ODE guest commentary, this very incident could be a teachable moment. But ultimately, at least in my mind, students value their hard-earned dollars more than they value offensive, teachable moment-creating speech.

Whatever the case, Tyler Graf was absolutely correct when he said that the decision was out of Frohnmayer’s (and Goward’s) hands. Could the President have handled the situation better? Yes, absolutely. But he should not be fired for not ignoring established Supreme Court precedent. As for the Insurgent, the more people get to read their Aroused Jesus issue, the stupider they look. Allowing them to keep publishing is the legally correct decision, and it’s a reminder of an important moral principle – but in the long run, it’s also the most fitting punishment of all.

  1. Karl says:

    I love freedom of speech. I am glad your publication is respected and did what it did. I hope you and others show the world you have the balls to stand up for what our fore fathers died for.

    Freedom to see, say, hear and share is a very important thing. PS. Oriely is a pompous arrogant ass.

  2. Olly says:

    Actually, I’d be all for an optional participation system. The trouble – or not, depending on your point of view – is that it would have to apply to all student groups, not just the Insurgent…

  3. Denis says:

    Southworth is a great read. 528 U.S. 217 (120 S.Ct.1346). Frohnmayer was not without options. One of the holdings in Southworth was that the University could implement some type of optional participation or refund system. The court declined to impose that sort of system as a constitutional requirement. 528 U.S. 217 at 232 (120 S.Ct. 1346 at 1356 (not bluebook format, but close enough to look up if you feel like double checking me).

    Frohnmayer’s statement correctly stated that neither content nor viewpoint is a lawful basis for denying an allocatoin. The statement made no mention of whether a refund or optional program was considered.

  4. […] Aroused Jesus just can’t get no love. We’ve had Bill Donohue, aghast at his improbable bright red erection; we’ve had Bill O’Reilly go so far as to call for Frohnmayer’s head over the matter. Now we have an Action Alert! from – it was only a matter of time, really – the American Family Association. […]

  5. sara brickner says:

    hey, so i have been in france/on the european ontinent since september and am still here, but i heard about all the brou-haha and i just wanted to say that i am so fucking proud of you guys. good job, tyler. we have our ideological differences but hearing about you shutting down bill o’reilly has definitely made my week.

    especially since i am in berlin right now. keep defending free speech, oh libertarian ones.

  6. Scott Austin (OK, not really) says:

    Jessica, that joke is indeed a horrible one, but the version you’ve heard is hardly the best telling. Again, while highly offensive, the actual version goes:

    Q: What’s the difference between a Jew and a pizza?
    A: The pizza doesn’t scream when you throw it in the oven.

    Sorry if that made you cry. Actually, no, I apologize to everyone else except for you.

  7. The Master says:

    Timothy: I think this would be a better explaination…

    How about yelling “FREE POT OUTSIDE” at the Oregon Country Fair? That may be worrysome. ^_-

  8. Timothy says:

    In the modern world do you think anyone would actually pay attention to “fire” being shouted in a theatre? We have fire alarms and smoke detectors and such, sprinkler systems. I think most folks would just wish the yahoo would STFU so we could watch the damn movie.

  9. Slade says:

    Anyone point me to a transcript of the show? Meant to watch, but I missed it.

  10. Andy says:

    Ian, you are so amazing I can’t believe that you’re only a lowly econ major. you guys are making national news and completely in the right. Where do we go from here?

  11. Gabrielle says:

    Not to be heartless (or maybe to be) but the world will not always agree with you, individuals will sometimes say hurtful things, and many will offend you. The privilege of living in the USA is to be able to both hear and say anything without fear of government censure. There are certain restrictions such as yelling fire in a crowded theater. (An interesting aside is that in Oregon even that is free speech until there is a stampede. Until then, it is your right.) Everyone needs to get over themselves and move on….. Or not, I agree with Olly. This is fun!

  12. Timothy says:

    I wasn’t aware that religions were genomically defined…fascinating!

  13. The Master says:

    Heartless? I’d call it therapy, Thankyouverymuch.

  14. Jessica Klinger says:

    Listen I am a half jew half christian so I know what I am talking about when I say this and I have debated this topic. A guy at my school once told me this horrible joke, “What is the similarity between a jew and a pizza? They both get cooked in an oven”. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I have to choose which religon to be a part of. When I saw those cartoons I was crushed and I cried. The reason I cried was that a month ago my grandmother died and I haven’t cried scince she died and do you know why. This is because I knew she was with Jesus and living a better life. So I leave you with this question How could you be so heartless to make a forteen year old girl cry?

  15. olly says:

    Now that‘s high on the list of headlines I never thought I’d live to see.

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