National media organizations come to defense of college press freedom before appeals court

ARLINGTON, Va. — A group of 25 state and national media organizations, university journalism schools and civil rights groups has urged a federal appeals court in Chicago to reject the Illinois Attorney General’s argument that college journalists should be entitled to no greater First Amendment protection than high school students.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit today in the case Hosty v. Carter, the group says it is “gravely concerned” that the Illinois Attorney General, on behalf of Governors State University, has urged the court to ignore over 30 years of court decisions protecting college students’ press freedom and to apply a high school-based censorship standard to expressive activity on college and university campuses.

The school was sued by student journalists Margaret Hosty, Jeni Porche and Steven Barba after a dean at Governors State, Patricia Carter, told the newspaper’s printer in the fall of 2000 that no further issues of the paper should be printed unless a school official had given advance approval to the newspaper’s contents. The student newspaper had occasionally published news stories and editorials critical of the administration. Carter’s directive was issued despite an established university policy that said the student newspaper staff “will determine content and format of their respective publications without censorship or advance approval.” No student newspaper has been published at the school since October 2000.

The brief specifically objects to the university’s reliance on the 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, which established a restrictive standard for student First Amendment rights in the high school setting. The brief says, “such restrictions have no place at a college or university” where free expression has traditionally been entitled to the highest protection. The brief notes that any school-supported student or faculty expression could be censored under the university’s reasoning, including campus speakers and films presented by student groups or lectures by faculty members.

The group joining in the brief includes seven university journalism departments from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin (the states that will be affected by the Seventh Circuit’s decision), six state and national organizations of professional journalists, 10 organizations of college journalists or journalism educators and two civil liberties groups concerned about campus free expression.

“This is one of the strongest outpourings of support for college press freedom that we’ve ever seen,” said Student Press Law Center Executive Director Mark Goodman. “The fact that professional journalists and journalism educators have joined to say that the future of our profession depends on strong protection for press freedom on college campuses is something we hope this court will take seriously.”

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List of Organizations Joining in Amicus Curiae Brief Before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Hosty v. Carter:

  • Student Press Law Center
  • American Society of Newspaper Editors
  • Associated Collegiate Press
  • Associated Press Managing Editors
  • Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Ball State University Department of Journalism
  • College Newspaper Business and Advertising Managers
  • College Media Advisers
  • Community College Journalism Association
  • Eastern Illinois University Department of Journalism
  • Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
  • Hoosier State Press Association
  • Illinois College Press Association
  • Illinois Press Association
  • Indiana Collegiate Press Association
  • Indiana University School of Journalism
  • Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Society for Collegiate Journalists
  • Society of Professional Journalists
  • Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Communications
  • University of Southern Indiana Department of Communications
  • University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire Department of Communication and Journalism

Mark Goodman, Executive DirectorStudent Press Law Center703/807-1904Additional background and information about the case, including a copy of the full brief, is available on the Student Press Law Center Web site’s Hosty v. Carter Information Page at: