Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world. – Umberto Eco
Wednesday was April Fool’s Day, and college newspapers across the country aimed to bring some humor to their articles this week. However, not all students found their college newspapers’ holiday issues funny … According to The Record, USG’s Executive Vice President initially emailed the newspaper on Wednesday, alerting its staff that its “budget has been frozen.” What’s more, the student government informed The Record that all copies of the April Fool’s Day issue, titled The Wreckard, had to be “removed from campus” by Thursday at 5:00 p.m. The Vice President explained this decision by writing, “It has come to our attention from many students and faculty members that some of the topics discussed in the ‘Wreckard’ satire addition [sic] were offensive to members of Buffalo State and the surrounding community.”
After swift pushback on social media from alumni, former Record staff, local and national journalists, and free press watchdogs, Buffalo State’s USG posted a statement on its Facebook page yesterday acknowledging that its attempt to censor the newspaper was not consistent with freedom of the press. The Buffalo News reported that Buffalo State Vice President Hal Payne influenced USG’s reversal. Payne released his own statement on the controversy:
While the The Record’s April Fools’ satire edition may have been upsetting to some and certainly pressed the boundaries of humor, I am concerned that the United Students Government’s decision to freeze the paper’s funding may infringe on students’ right to free speech. Because The Record is a recognized student organization, United Students Government provides oversight of the paper, not the college administration. However, I will reach out to the leaders of both organizations in the coming days to encourage a swift resolution.
Payne is correct—USG’s decision did infringe on students’ right to free speech, and it is critical that USG understand it cannot take similarly motivated action against The Record or any other student publication or student group in the future.