Lewis v. St. Cloud State University

693 N.W.2d 466 (Minn. Ct. App. 2005)

Shortly after St. Cloud State University professor Michael Lewis filed suit against the university for alleged age discrimination, the university’s newspaper, the Chronicle, released an issue in which a student claimed that Lewis was anti-Semitic and had treated her unfairly. The paper retracted the article, but Lewis sued the university for defamation, claiming it was liable for the student’s publication.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the school could not be held responsible for libel published in the Chronicle. While the school did play a role in the newspaper by providing the Chronicle with start-up funds from student tuition each year, taking part in selecting the paper’s adviser, editor and business editor, and letting the paper use the official university logo, among other connections, the school did not have any editorial control of the publication. In fact, the school maintained a policy that “student-funded publications shall be free of censorship and advance approval of copy, and their editors and managers shall be free to develop their own editorial and news coverage policies.” Therefore, the school could not be held legally responsible for what the students published.