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Students have legitimate beef

They should not have to pay to support offensive publications

The Albany Democrat-Herald

Back in March, a student publication at the University Oregon, The Insurgent, printed exceedingly vulgar artwork depicting Jesus Christ. Because of the worldwide uproar over cartoons of Muhammad, it wanted to show people how it felt to have their sacred images profaned.

It was a sophomoric stunt, and essentially a cowardly one because the perpetrators knew very well that no matter how much anybody would be repulsed by what they had done, no matter how deeply Christians would be insulted by the images, no one in Oregon, let alone on the U of O campus, would come after them with a machete or a gun. They would be perfectly safe, unlike the cartoonists making drawings of the prophet in countries with big populations of radical Muslims.

Last week Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News cable commentator and columnist, called for university President Dave Frohnmayer to be fired for not appearing on his program and not acting to discipline The Insurgent.

That was cheap of O'Reilly, and ignorant too. Frohnmayer has proved in his long years of public service in Oregon that he is thoughtful as well as courageous. He had good reason not to drive to Portland to be on O'Reilly's show, where the host often interrupts his guests and gives them little chance to say their piece.

The Insurgent is a monthly and prints a few hundred copies. Nobody had ever heard of it until people outraged by the drawings started distributing them by e-mail, and until O'Reilly took up the subject last Wednesday on national TV. The university president had good sense on his side in trying not to give the thing more prominence than it deserved.

Now that people know about the flap, they may ask: Just what do we mean these days by "higher education"? In the case of The Insurgent at the U of O, it does not seem to have included advancement in maturity or taste.

More to the point, students have a legitimate complaint that a part of their mandatory fees charged by the university is used to support that kind of stuff. The 2007 Legislature should once again try to free university students from having to pay fees to causes or projects they abhor.