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High court won't hear campus newspaper appeal

By The Associated Press,
First Amendment Center Online staff

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court passed up a chance today to decide if college administrators can censor campus newspapers.

Justices declined without comment to review an appeal in Hosty v. Carter filed by former collegiate journalists at Governors State University, a public college in Illinois.

The students sued after a dean blocked the paper's printing in 2000 until she could review the news stories. Campus journalists had written unflattering stories in the Innovator about departments at the school in University Park, south of Chicago, which has about 6,000 students.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the university administration could regulate the newspaper's contents because it is published under the auspices of Governors State.

The case would have been a follow-up to a 1988 ruling, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, that said public school officials could censor high school newspapers.

Backers of the student journalists in the latest case argue that college is very different.

"An uncensored college newspaper is vitally important to attracting college students to journalism and providing them with a real-world training ground that prepares them to become professional journalists," justices were told by lawyers for media programs at Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Georgia, the University of Missouri, and Syracuse University.

The student journalists — Jeni Porche, Margaret Hosty and Steven Barba — had sued Patricia Carter, Governors State University's dean of student affairs. The appeals court, overruling a district judge, found that Carter was shielded from the lawsuit.

"Word has already begun to spread that the standard 'hands-off student media' policies recognized by college officials in the past may no longer be required," attorney Richard Goehler told justices in a filing on behalf of many groups, including the Associated Press Managing Editors, the Student Press Law Center and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

SPLC Executive Director Mark Goodman said he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the Court's refusal to hear the case.

"I believed it would be close whether the Court would take the case," he told the First Amendment Center Online. "This was a good chance for the Court to settle the law in an area that everyone agrees is confusing. Either the Court felt that this wasn't the proper case or, more cynically on my part, the justices realized how complex and complicated this area of the law is and wanted more guidance from lower courts."

"Hazelwood should not apply to the student press," he added. "Our future depends on getting good decisions from other courts that conflict with the 7th Circuit ruling."

While some administrators may view the high court's refusal as a "green light to censor" student papers, Goodman said, the Court's decision may pose a bigger threat to small campus groups.

"The real fear is that the small student organization who wishes to bring in a controversial speaker or show an unpopular film will be silenced. Those student organizations will feel the impact more than the mainstream student media."

In the meantime, Goodman said, the SPLC will increase its efforts to get administrators to endorse student-press rights.

"This does present us with an opportunity to get more school officials to go on the record with regard to the freedom of the student press," he said.

Press advocates urge high court to hear student journalists' appeal
Justices will decide early next year whether to review 7th Circuit decision allowing Governors State University to regulate content of campus newspaper. 11.29.05


Full 7th Circuit upholds college against newspaper

Majority reverses earlier ruling that had found college press not subject to same limits as high school newspapers. 06.21.05

Press advocates urge high court to hear student journalists' appeal
Justices will decide early next year whether to review 7th Circuit decision allowing Governors State University to regulate content of campus newspaper. 11.29.05

College newspaper ordered to turn over photos
Adviser said South Dakota State newspaper decided not to appeal because it was doubtful the Collegian would have prevailed. 03.28.06

Calif. bill would protect state college press
Measure offered in response to 7th Circuit student-press ruling in Hosty giving college administrators leeway to censor campus media. 05.12.06

Advisers get tips on protecting college press liberty
By Beth Chesterman Hosty ruling raises specter of greater campus media censorship unless a written policy is in place, College Media Advisers told. 06.14.06

Calif. Senate votes to protect rights of college journalists
If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs bill, state would be first to prohibit university administrators from censoring student newspapers. 08.11.06

Calif. expands freedoms for college press
By Melanie Bengtson New law will give student publications at public universities same free-press rights that professional media enjoy. 09.22.06

Wash. lawmakers consider bolstering student-press rights
'The right of free press is more important than the fear of inappropriate content,' says measure's sponsor. 01.22.07

Wash. state student-press bill dies
By Melanie Bengtson Other student press-freedom bills await action in Oregon, Illinois, Michigan. 05.11.07

How much will Hosty ruling affect campus expression?
By David L. Hudson Jr. Answer is complicated by 7th Circuit’s opinion being less than clear in discussing Hazelwood, qualified immunity, public forums. 06.30.05

Hosty ruling on college press leaves heads scratching
By Douglas Lee Full 7th Circuit's confusing approach to campus-newspaper case leaves uncertain legacy. 06.29.05

2005-06 Supreme Court case tracker

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