- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A university panel will determine next week whether to fire the student newspaper editor behind a profane headline attacking President Bush.

J. David McSwane, the 20-year-old editor of the Rocky Mountain Collegian at Colorado State University, could face dismissal, suspension or no punishment for the Sept. 21 editorial, “Taser this … (Expletive) Bush.”

The university’s Board of Student Communications announced yesterday that it will hold a formal hearing Thursday after weighing hundreds of complaints about the four-letter word that ran in a headline-sized font.

The panel heard from 30 speakers at a two-hour public hearing Wednesday night before a packed 310-seat auditorium. The editorial’s supporters carried signs, duct-taped their mouths, and wore T-shirts with messages such as “Save Dave.”

Mr. McSwane, wearing a black suit, black shirt and black tie, defended the use of the four-letter word, saying it was intended to spark debate and remind complacent students about the importance of their First Amendment rights.

The message refers to an incident last week at which a University of Florida student was Tasered by police during a speech by Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat. Mr. McSwane did not explain why the headline referred to President Bush, who was not at the event.

“We decided to run the ‘(Expletive) Bush’ editorial after we, as students, came together as an editorial board and felt very strongly that the incident at the University of Florida was something that students should be talking about,” Mr. McSwane said. “We felt that CSU and the CSU campus as a whole was largely apathetic, and we wanted to facilitate a debate about free speech.”

His critics argued that the profanity tarnished the university’s reputation and jeopardized the student newspaper’s financial health.

Jeff Browne, director of student media, said he expected to lose $50,000 in advertising based on the number of calls from local businesses threatening to pull their support.

The Collegian, a self-funded publication, collects about $950,000 annually in advertising revenue. The newspaper has already begun cutting costs by trimming staff salaries and publishing in black and white for the first time in years.

“David’s job was not only to decide editorial content, but to preserve the financial well-being of our paper,” said Linay Snyder, the newspaper’s student advertising manager. “He failed.”

The College Republicans gathered more than 500 signatures on a petition asking Mr. McSwane to resign, saying the national coverage of the scandal had embarrassed the university and hurt the value of its credential.

“We are not attacking his First Amendment rights. This has nothing to do with that,” said College Republican leader Chelsey Penoyer. “[T]hat’s an excuse to hide behind. This is entirely about McSwane’s lack of journalistic integrity.”

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