ARLINGTON, Va. — The Student Press Law Center is calling on student journalists, journalism educators and working journalists to demand that public colleges in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin go on the record with their support for student press freedom.
As part of its response to the June decision in Hosty v. Carter, where an en banc panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the analysis of the Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision, which allowed the censorship of a high school student newspaper, should be used to assess censorship claims at public universities.
The Hosty court said that a court confronted with an act of student newspaper censorship by a school official must first determine if the publication had been opened as a “designated public forum” where students have been given the authority to make the content decisions. For over 30 years, courts around the country have said college journalists are entitled to strong First Amendment protection.
The SPLC’s campaign seeks to publicize the names of schools that guarantee such freedoms — and bring to public scrutiny the schools that have not — in order to give high school students more information on which to base their college decision.
Students are asked to request that their administrators issue a written, signed statement guaranteeing that student editors will have the authority to make all content decisions without censorship or advance approval. The result of that request will be posted on the SPLC’s Web site and distributed periodically to state and national high school media organizations.
In addition, the SPLC will actively discourage high school students from attending a college or university that will not commit to press freedom. The SPLC will also retain copies of these statements, once issued.
The Seventh Circuit’s jurisdiction is limited to Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin; as a result, the Hosty has no effect in other states. While the SPLC is currently focusing on reporting responses from colleges in the Seventh Circuit, responses from other areas will be collected by the SPLC and reported in the near future.
More information on how to obtain a public forum statement from administrators and the list of schools that have guaranteed freedom of the press on their campus are available on the SPLC’s Web site at www.splc.org/publicforumcolleges.