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No penalty for student newspaper prank

May 27, 2010 at 2:15 PM   |   Comments

SALT LAKE CITY, May 27 (UPI) -- The University of Utah said nine graduating students will not be punished for putting the word "penis" and a slang term for the vagina in the school newspaper.

Administrators said academic holds on the journalism students were lifted after they determined the student code was not violated by the prank, which spelled out the words in large capital letters within The Daily Utah Chronicle's farewell columns, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.

Lori McDonald, associate dean of students, sent the nine graduating seniors e-mail messages May 21 informing them they had been cleared of misconduct.

Adam Goldstein, an attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center who sent a letter to school officials on behalf of the students, said the university would have violated the First Amendment if it attempted to withhold diplomas or transcripts.

"The problem was pretending that this was a violation of student code of conduct. If speech is a violation of the code then the code of conduct is unconstitutional," Goldstein said. "I get they don't like it and it's a goofy tradition, but what tradition isn't goofy? No one runs with the bulls in Spain because it's good cardio. Nobody really pulls a groundhog out of the ground to check the weather."

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