Last November, in an article meant to be satire, the Morris Northstar ran a photo of Trayvon Martin's dead face with this caption -- "Trayvon Martin, victim of racism and fascism, and what does [school administration] have to say about it? Nothing. Not a single thing."
That passage prompted Morris biology professor PZ Myers to write on his blog that the Northstar "has worn out its welcome and must go. Treat their scattered papers as hate-filled trash and dispose of it appropriately."
According to the Northstar's publisher, Jonathan Geiger, the school-funded conservative newspaper actually did begin to disappear from racks around campus just after Myers published his blog, and they haven't stopped vanishing since.
Geiger says this semester, there was "a two-week period where there were four thefts of an entire stack, and other papers were vandalized."
Those thefts alone accounted for nearly $1,000 worth of newspaper, Geiger estimates.
"They started disappearing that weekend right after [Myers] said, 'Treat the paper as trash,'" Geiger continues, adding that campus police are investigating the alleged thefts.
The beef between Myers -- who describes his blog as "Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal" -- and the Northstar was picked up this week by Fox News in an article entitled, "Did professor advocate censorship of conservative student newspaper?"
The articles notes that the Northstar now has legal counsel from an Arizona-based conservative group called The Alliance Defending Freedom.
Geiger, a sophomore studying German and global business, says his paper, with the ADF's help, is considering a First Amendment lawsuit.
"It's a university public official saying pretty much, 'Let's trash their paper' and advocating censorship," Geiger says. "He's not saying, 'Hey everybody, look at these guys, they're assholes, they're dumb, ignore them.' That I would be fine with."
Myers doesn't sound too worried about it.
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"If [Fox News] thinks old-fashioned race-baiting, libel against faculty and staff, flaunting the face of murdered black people to intimidate and horrify students, and lying about crimes is merely an implicit part of the conservative agenda, then yes, I advocate kicking such behavior off campus altogether," he writes on his blog today. "But then, I guess that's what conservativism has become nowadays."
We asked local attorney Nathan Hansen for his thoughts about the controversy. He said he doesn't think the Northstar has much of a legal case.
"I disagree with [Myers], but I don't think he has done anything illegal," Hansen says. "He is free to express his opinion in that way."