Students at the University of Texas have started an online petition hoping to support the reinstatement of the campus paper’s cartoonist Stephanie Eisner who was fired after the paper ran her cartoon commenting on the media coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. She later apologized as did the paper. It should be noted that there are conflicting stories whether she was fired or left the paper. The paper’s official statement was “no longer on staff.” The language of the petition states that she was fired.
Other people have signed on to the petition with their own reasons for support. Most of them reflect Quazi’s position that this isn’t about agreeing with the cartoon, but sticking up for Eisner’s right to have an unpopular cartoon.
One signer said on the Change.org website, where the petition is hosted, that “It was a cowardly decision to fire her.” Another person, who claimed they worked for The Daily Texan in the 1980s, said “We had numerous cartoons that I didn’t agree with, but not once would we ever have considered firing someone for basically doing her job.”
Unfortunately, a minority within the campus community perceived racism within the cartoon itself and in the resultant controversy pressured the editorial staff to fire Eisner. Disappointingly, the editorial board complied to this vitriolic and narrow-minded minority and it removed Ms. Eisner from its staff.
The decision is an insult to journalistic independence, our national values of free speech and a free press, and the right to dissent from popular or prevailing viewpoints. Regardless of one’s views of the cartoon itself, we find it alarming that Ms. Eisner would be shunned and silenced for expressing her views.