University of Oregon Withholds Copies of Student Publication

More than 700 copies of a controversial recent edition of a student publication that criticizes and satirizes Christianity are sitting in a University facility instead of being mailed as usual. University officials said they held the issues of The Student Insurgent after realizing an administrative error had allowed past issues to be sent at a discounted rate, but members of publication’s staff claim the issues were censored.

In its March issue, The Insurgent published pictures of Jesus making love to another man, articles about Christianity’s negative influence on society and cartoons satirizing Jesus’ crucifixion in response to controversy surrounding 12 Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad reprinted by the Oregon Commentator last month.

University officials on Monday notified the student government, which oversees programs such as The Insurgent, that ASUO programs are not allowed to use the University’s nonprofit bulk-mail permit, previously used to send The Insurgent.

“Last year we clarified with Mail Services that student groups, in general, do not qualify to use the University’s nonprofit permit,” according to the April 17 University press release. “In reviewing what had occurred, we learned that, through a misunderstanding, issues of The Student Insurgent continued to be mailed at the non-profit rate this academic year despite last year’s clarification.”

The Insurgent has used the permit for at least four years, said Don Goldman, a contributor to The Insurgent.

Staff members at The Insurgent believe the University acted in response to the issue’s controversial content, which they said infringes upon their freedom of speech.

“We definitely feel that we’re being discriminated against because of our beliefs about Christianity and the way we presented our beliefs,” said Jessica Brown, a contributor to The Insurgent. “We don’t feel that it was hate speech … I just feel that (Christianity’s) a very detrimental aspect to our society that needs to be politically discussed and possibly poked fun at occasionally.”

Holding the issues was not intended as censorship, according to the press release.

“Although there may be many who find the content of the Student Insurgent or other publications offensive, the university’s handling of the April issue of The Student Insurgent was unrelated to the content,” according to the press release. “It was based on the fact that postal regulations do not permit The Student Insurgent or most other student groups to use the university’s non-profit permit.”

The University had not clarified for student government the use of the nonprofit mailing permit, ASUO Programs Administrator David Goward said.

“Someone, who I do not know, in the mail room made the correlation that this had not complied with the federal law governing the nonprofit bulk mailing,” Goward said. “They brought it to the attention of the mailing supervisor and the mailing supervisor brought it to the attention of the general counsel of the University.

“I was personally notified of this by President Frohnmayer himself on Monday, but it has been something that has been in the works prior to the latest edition of The Student Insurgent,” Goward said. “This is in no way a reaction to The Student Insurgent.”

University student Zachary White filed a grievance with the ASUO against the publication April 13.

“As a student minister at the Newman Center, and as a faithful Catholic who has never ridiculed the beliefs of others, I find it intolerable and contrary to the University’s mission of tolerance and non-discrimination to use public funds to allow for discrimination of a religious group on campus,” according to White’s grievance.

“This is a clear case of discrimination being funded by the student incidental fee,” according to the grievance.

Goward has yet to rule on the grievance.

The issues are waiting to be picked up by The Insurgent in the Printing and Mailing Services office, said J. R. Gaddis, director of the department.