COLORADO — The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced last week it will review a ruling in November that upheld the dismissal of a Kansas State University student newspaper adviser based on content decisions made by student editors.
Ron Johnson, the long-time adviser of The Collegian, was reassigned in 2004 after university officials conducted a “content analysis” and found the newspaper’s “diversity content” lacking. Former student editors Sarah Rice and Katie Lane filed a lawsuit claiming that reassigning Johnson based on content decisions students made violated their First Amendment rights. The university admitted that its own policies give control to students and prohibit the adviser from interfering.
Last year, a district court dismissed the case, saying Johnson’s removal did not violate the rights of the student editors and noting that the officials were looking at the overall quality of The Collegian, which it said is distinct from content.
Both sides are scheduled to appear before the court on Nov. 13 in Denver, Colo. This is the first case dealing with a dismissal of a student newspaper adviser to reach a federal appeals court. It is also the first college press case to reach the appeals court level after the 2005 Hosty v. Carter, a decision that enabled university administrators authority to censor some school-sponsored student publications at public universities in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.