Columnist rightfully terminated

Almost as surprising as seeing “Eastern Michigan University” trending on Facebook was seeing “Ann Arbor” trending too. But of the two digital skirmishes, the one that interested me the most was not the one between the Wolverines and Eagles but the one between the Daily and the Review. I’m still happy for the Eagles, but I found reading the verbal volleys exchanged between the Daily and the Review far more exhilarating than I could have found watching ten guys dribble a ball.

Last November, the Michigan Daily and the Michigan Review -- both student newspapers at the University of Michigan -- locked editorial horns when the Review published a satire piece, “Do the Left Thing,” by Daily columnist Omar Mahmood. “The biggest obstacle to equality today,” Mahmood’s overly-sensitive protagonist bemoaned, “is our barbaric attitude toward people of left-handedness. It’s a tragedy that I, a member of the left-handed community, had little to no idea of the atrocious persecution that we are dealt every day by institutions that are deeply embedded in society. . . ”

Mahmood is not left-handed. I am. Writing and pictures on mugs always face away and pens at the bank are always on the wrong side. I found the column quite funny.

Following student complaints over the column, Mahmood was suspended from the Daily for a week, an action that the Review acknowledged the Daily was within its rights to do. But when Mahmood was fired from the Daily on Dec. 4, the Review, as well as many national media outlets, decried the termination as being politically-motivated, a charge that the Daily denied. In response, the Daily staff wrote that Mahmood “was terminated because he violated. . . our publication’s bylaws, not because of his political beliefs.”

But if Mahmood’s political beliefs were irrelevant to his termination, why mention them or the content of his column at all? His column, the Daily staff wrote, “satirically mocked the experiences of fellow Daily contributors and minority communities on campus in his Review column [violating] our values and integrity as a publication. . . ” All the Daily needed to have said was that Mahmood was fired because he violated the Daily bylaws. Period.

The Review, though it gives priority to works submitted by “students, faculty, staff and administrators,” allows anyone to submit work. The Daily, on the other hand, allows only current and just-finished University of Michigan students to write for them.

After being suspended, Mahmood, according to the Daily staff, “took his version of the story to The College Fix and The Daily Caller. . . [violating] several of our bylaws.” Daily bylaws, the Daily staff wrote, “do not allow writers to discuss the [Daily’s] internal politics and governance . . . in external publications while remaining part of the Daily staff.”

While Mahmood may not have violated Review bylaws, he did violate the Daily’s. According to the Daily bylaws, “managing editors may fire any staffer of their respective sections for cause”; a cause for dismissal being defined as “[a] violation of these bylaws and/or the ethics code” which say that “[t]he Editor in Chief must give explicit permission before any staffer may contribute to or join the staff of a publication based on campus or in Ann Arbor.” 

The Daily bylaws and code of ethics are both available online.

It looks as though the Daily editors gave Mahmood a second chance, which he threw away. From my perspective, the Daily was right to fire Mahmood. Given that Mahmood’s apartment had been vandalized, his door pelted with eggs and messages such as “everyone hates you you violent p****" and “shut the f*** up” scrawled across his door, Mahmood was right to shake the dust from his feet.

But all’s well that ends well; the Daily did the right thing, and so did the Review. Omar Dashwood -- according to the Daily’s Facebook page -- now enjoys his new position as an editor.

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