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New Ill. law boosts college press freedoms

By Lydia Hailman King
First Amendment Center Online intern

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has signed the College Campus Press Act, an anti-censorship bill providing greater freedoms of speech to college student journalists.

The new law (S.B. 0729) states that any campus media outlet “produced primarily by students at a state-sponsored institution of higher learning is a public forum for expression by the student journalists and editors.” According to the Student Press Law Center, the law effectively negates Hosty v. Carter, a 2005 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that allowed public university officials, like high school administrators, the prior review and restraint of student publications not designated “public forums.” Indiana and Wisconsin, the two other states within the 7th Circuit, are still under the Hosty judgment.

Introduced in February by state Sen. Susan Garrett, the bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly in June and was signed by Blagojevich on Aug. 31. It becomes effective in January 2008. Illinois is home to nine public universities and various public community colleges, with a total of six daily college newspapers.

Under the act, college student journalists in the state are responsible for all publication content, including advertisements. Media advisers cannot be fired or disciplined for refusing to suppress college journalists’ free expression. Also, state schools will have immunity from lawsuits arising against student media.

While protecting First Amendment freedoms, the new law does not defend those who publish harassing, threatening or intimidating material, “including obscenity and incitement.”

Similar bills have emerged in legislatures across the country. In July, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed House Bill 3279, the first state law protecting both high school and college student publications under the same statute. A Washington state bill (H.B. 1307) to protect student press freedom failed to earn a vote before the legislative session ended on April 13. A student-press bill awaits action in Michigan, where it has been referred to the education committee.

Six states currently offer full First Amendment protection to high school journalists in public schools: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Massachusetts. California also provides freedom for the college press at both public and private institutions.

Lydia Hailman King is a University of Mississippi graduate with degrees in journalism, international studies and French.


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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. 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. state student-press bill dies

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

Ore. lawmakers endorse student-press bill
By Courtney Holliday Governor has said he will sign measure, which would be first state law to protect both college and high school journalists under same statute. 06.22.07

Bid to safeguard Wash. student press fails again
By Melanie Bengtson Bill, similar to one that died last year in state Legislature, would have protected First Amendment rights of student journalists. 02.06.08

Ky. bill aims to protect student press
If measure passes, state will join at least seven others that have enacted some form of protections for high school journalists. 01.22.09

Why we need a strong student press
By Gene Policinski Will adults empowered with prior restraint ultimately be more responsible than students following good journalistic standards? 02.11.07

Is Ill. campus-press law too good to be true?
By Douglas Lee As hard as it might be to believe, there appears to be no catch, just a sincere desire to protect college media from overzealous campus administrators. 09.19.07

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