Illinois legislature amends college anti-censorship legislation

ILLINOIS — State representatives could vote today on a bill that would protect student newspapers at Illinois public universities and community colleges, effectively negating the effect of the 2005 Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Hosty v. Carter in that state.

The bill, SB0729, known as the College Campus Press Act, designates all public college and community college publications in the state as forums for student expression, nullifying the Hosty decision in Illinois.

The 2005 Hosty v. Carter decision said that public college administrators could impose prior review and restraint on student newspapers if the publication is not a designated public forum for student expression. The ruling applies to Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, which comprise the Seventh Circuit.

Sponsors of the bill added an amendment this week to meet opponents’ objections that the original legislation did not provide administrators with their own protections.

The amendment has two major provisions. One protects administrators from being held liable for any student-produced material.

“A state-sponsored institution of higher learning shall be immune from any lawsuit arising from expression actually made in campus media, with the exception of the institution’s own expression,” the amendment reads.

The other provision allows administrators to punish students who use unprotected speech, including “obscenity” and “incitement.”

Illinois Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) introduced the bill in early February with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Senators passed the bill unanimously in March.

Because today is the last day of the summer legislative session, representatives must vote on the bill by the end of the day. If they do not, the vote will be postponed until the fall veto session, scheduled to start in November.

By Jenny Redden, SPLC staff writer

  • Illinois senate passes college press freedom bill News Flash, 3/15/2007
  • Illinois state legislators to consider collegiate free press bill News Flash, 3/2/2007