FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, in conjunction with the Student Press Law Center, have written a letter to university administration in support of the Chrony 9. "These actions are unacceptable," they write. --- Read the whole letter here (pdf). (Update 5-6-10 4:59 p.m.)
From May 5, 2010:
Nine University of Utah graduating seniors and former staff members of the Daily Utah Chronicle received an e-mail alerting them that there has been a hold placed on their records after a traditional newspaper staff farewell gag caught the attention of administrators. Editors at the paper, as they have for at least a decade, arranged for the drop-cap letters in a series of farewell columns to spell out the words "CUNT" and "PENIS."---
For pictures of the offending layout, go here.
The Chronicle's outgoing editor in chief, Rachel Hanson--who has also served as a City Weekly staff copy editor since February--says the nine students whose columns' first letters spelled out the gag words each received an e-mail that says they allegedly violated the University of Utah's Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. They're suspected of "intentional disruption or obstruction of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary proceedings or university activities," and "unauthorized or improper use of any university property, equipment, facilities or resources."
The e-mail, Hanson said, instructs the students to schedule a meeting with the Dean of Students office.
"I'm kind of flabbergasted," Hanson said. "I don't think they've done this to the Chronicle before. This is a new, extreme step they've taken. I don't know if they intend to scare us ... or really keep us from graduating."
Hanson provided a list of past year's gags.
"No one's every noticed before, or cared," Hanson said. This year the gag was posted to the popular FailBlog, then bounced between Utah Twitter and Facebook users after City Weekly blogged about it also.
Hanson said the students are coordinating with the Student Press Law Center to decide on the proper response.
The graduates have been told they can not meet with the Dean's office until next week. Hanson said the e-mail does not impact the graduates' right to walk in the graduation ceremony Friday, "but they won't process or send us our degree."
The gag may have been silly, Hanson said, but the administration response is inappropriate.
"I'm stressed out. This isn't how I wanted to leave the U, but I'm also really annoyed, because I think they're overreacting. ... We do this every year, and it's always been our chuckle as we leave office. ... This wasn't our big 'fuck you' to the university, it was our personal tradition."