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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Gutless Faculty, Students at University of Illinois Fire Campus Editor for Publishing Cartoons

Yet another illustration - this time at the University of Illinois - that the First Amendment's protection of free speech and the free press means nothing on many American campuses.

Acton H. Gordon, now former editor of the student-run Daily Illini, was fired by the board of directors, which includes faculty members and students. The official excuse for the firing was that Gordon published cartoons that originally appeared in a Danish newspaper containing controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed without first consulting with other members of the newspaper staff about "inflammatory material."

Gordon denies that allegation, saying he talked with his predecessor in the editor's job, as well as others in the university community. Chuck Prochaska, the Daily Illini's now-former editorial page editor, declined to be reinstated after being suspended for his role in the publication. He said he and Gordon wanted to get the cartoon in print quickly because they were newsworthy.

Riots that claimed numerous Muslim lives in countries from Southwest Asia to Europe followed publication of the cartoons in Denmark. Many European and U.S. dailies have declined to publish the cartoons, saying they are intentionally offensive to Muslims.

Gordon called his firing a blow against free speech on college campuses, according to a report on CNN.com.

"'If I can be fired, what will other students think who maybe want to challenge the status quo?' said Gorton, who had briefly addressed a board meeting the previous night. 'This is a bad precedent.'"

Gordon's experience highlights the need for liberals who profess to support the First Amendment to make up their minds - Do they actually support freedom of speech, press and thought or do they give priority to the multiculturalist assertion of an unqualified right of individuals from ethnic minorities to not be offended.