Court dismisses libel suit, rules college is not liable for content in student newspaper

A Minnesota court dismissed a libel lawsuit brought against St. Cloud State University and the Minnesota State Colleges and University system for an article in a student newspaper.

The court ruled June 9 that even though an article in the SCSU University Chronicle, which claimed that a professor at the school was anti-Semitic, was defamatory, the university and university system could not be held responsible for it because university officials did not have editorial control over the newspaper.

“[The] defendants’ role with respect to [the University Chronicle] cannot be a basis for liability because their role is only to advise, to encourage, and to persuade,” Ramsey County District Court Judge M. Michael Monahan stated in a memo attached to his order for summary judgment.

The professor has appealed the ruling.


SPLC View: While the case is apparently not yet over, the decision – whose outcome follows rulings in similar cases – should serve as yet another reminder to school officials that exercising editorial control over their student media may not only be unconstitutional – it could also open the school’s “deep pockets” to a potential libel plaintiff.