Late March 31, 2023, The Mugdown staff received an ultimatum from university administration: cease online and print publication or all of its members would be expelled from Texas A&M. The Mugdown is a student organization and satire student publication that traces its origins at A&M back to 1875.
The move comes just over a year after President M. Katherine Banks and other members of administration delivered a similar demand to The Battalion, A&M’s independent student newspaper publication. In an exclusive interview with The Battalion, Banks said the ultimatum was issued due to editorial concerns.
“I was browsing through their website the other day,” Banks said. “I noticed an article entitled ‘Burn After Reading.’”
“Burn After Reading” is a farcical fanfiction and riff on Romeo and Juliet written by The Mugdown staff. The plot features two personified publications in the form of rival families; the Battalion and Mugdown households. “Lil’ Battie” and “Lil’ Muggie,” members of the respective families, fall in love and succumb to tragic deaths.
“I was really appalled reading it,” Banks said. “It was … How do the kids say it? Cringe? I just need to remove this for the good of the student body through whatever means necessary. I don’t want to risk any additional exposure.”
“Burn After Reading” was published in February 2023 and began a series of columns featuring The Battalion. Banks said administration came to the consensus that the frequent appearance of The Battalion largely projected a sense of clout chasing on the part of The Mugdown staff.
“Sometimes when you read, you can’t help but think, ‘Wow, this seems really desperate,’” Banks said.
Other recent examples include the headlines, ‘The Battalion Stops Printing Physical Copies in Effort to Regain Relevance’ and ‘The Battalion to Begin Releasing Articles Generated on ChatGPT,’ both of which were published in March 2023.”
According to sources familiar with the matter, Banks opted not to consult any Mugdown staff, students, experts, stakeholders or faculty familiar with the publication or the first amendment before making the decision.
“We received a lot of pushback when we didn’t consult anyone leading up to our decision last time with The Battalion,” Banks said. “I just knew time was of great importance and wanted to expedite the process. But worst comes to worst, I plan on making Gen. Ramirez apologize in an email to the campus and moving on.”
Banks said she plans to take editorial control of The Mugdown briefly before incorporating it into the existing student media apparatus at A&M.
“I think it’s a new era for The Mugdown: good,” Banks said. “Consider the positives. We’re not in charge here, the audience is in charge — and they don’t want to see ‘Burn After Reading.’”
In a statement issued by The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, the free speech advocacy group claimed the decision was unlawful and reluctantly vowed to oppose it.
“We scoured all the case law available on the subject,” the statement reads. “But, unfortunately, retaliating against a publication like The Mugdown on account of its poor quality is not protected by law. Believe me, we checked because we really wanted it to in this case.”
Caleb Elizondo is a computer science sophomore and opinion editor for The Battalion.
Editor’s note: This article is satire and therefore the attributed quotes and facts within it are fictitious.
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