Illinois State University has become the first school to formally designate its student newspaper as a public forum in response to the Student Press Law Center’s call for schools in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin to explicitly state their position on freedom of the collegiate press.
On Sept. 15, ISU president Dr. Al Bowman signed a statement saying, “[t]he Daily Vidette student newspaper at Illinois State University is a designated public forum. Student editors have the authority to make all content decisions without censorship or advance approval.”
The statement, on Daily Vidette letterhead, was also signed by the publication’s Editor in Chief Suzanne Bell and General Manager Rick Jones.
By designating the Daily Vidette as a public forum, Bowman has indicated his intent to guarantee that Vidette editors have the highest level of freedom of the press possible under the June decision in Hosty v. Carter, where the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that a student newspaper must be designated a as a public forum for editors to have strong First Amendment protection. The decision only impacts students in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and a petition has been filed for the Supreme Court to hear the case.
The SPLC has called on student journalists, advisers and journalism professionals to ask colleges in the 7th Circuit to formally designate their student media as public forums. The results of those requests will be reported on the SPLC’s Web site at http://www.splc.org/publicforumcolleges. In addition, the SPLC will actively discourage high school students from attending schools who refuse to sign such statements.
- PRESS RELEASE: Students, advisers and professional journalists asked to press colleges on press freedom
- The Public Forum List: Public colleges and universities in the 7th Circuit that have gone on record supporting student press freedom
- The Student Press Law Center’s information page on Hosty v. Carter