Federal judge overturns University of Texas leafleting ban

\nTEXAS - The University of Texas at Austin cannot ban outsiders\nfrom distributing leaflets at an off-campus university building,\nbut the university can halt leaflet distribution at an on-campus\ncommon area, a federal district judge ruled in 1998.

Four members of an environmental activist group brought suit\nagainst the university, alleging their constitutional rights were\nviolated when they were prohibited from passing out leaflets to\npeople attending a privately sponsored convention held at a university-owned,\noff-campus center in 1996.

In the court's decision, Judge Sam Sparks ruled that the inability\nto clearly distinguish between the city-owned sidewalk outside\nthe center and the center's property itself requires that the\nentire paved area outside the center be considered a public forum\nfor speech purposes.

Sparks also ruled, however, that the university could bar leafleters\nfrom distributing literature at an on-campus plaza area, saying\nthat the school had legitimate concerns that opening its West\nMall area to outsiders could significantly increase the chances\nof unwanted litter and disruption.n center be considered a public\nforum for speech purposes.

Survey reveals dwindling support for student press

\nVIRGINIA - Americans' support for student free press rights\nis waning, according to a recent survey.

The State of the First Amendment, a poll conducted by The Freedom\nForum First Amendment Center and the Center for Survey Research\nand Analysis at the University of Connecticut, reveals diminishing\nsupport for all of the First Amendment freedoms when compared\nto a 1997 survey, but most notably the freedom of the press.

More than half of the respondents said they believe the press\nhas too much freedom, and 60 percent said high school students\nshould not be free to print stories about controversial issues\nwithout school officials' approval.

Paul McMasters, the First Amendment ombudsman at the Freedom\nForum, acknowledged that it is difficult to establish trends over\na two-year period, but attributed the decline in support for the\nFirst Amendment to Americans' desire to have more calm and security\nin their lives.

"They think the best way to do this is by shutting other\npeople up," he said.

McMasters said the best way to increase the public's support\nfor the First Amendment is through education.

"The people in our poll tell us the educational system\nis doing a bad job of teaching them about their freedoms, particularly\nFirst Amendment freedoms," McMasters said.

Thefts hit 2 Alabama schools

\nALABAMA - The entire 2,000-copy press run of an edition\nof the Aumnibus, the student newspaper of Auburn University\nat Montgomery was stolen after being distributed around campus\nin April.

Aumnibus editor Joseph Patton reported the theft to\nthe campus police immediately, who falsely informed him that because\nthe paper was offered for free, he could not take any legal action.

"I basically got the impression that they never really\ndid much," Patton said.

Students hire lawyer to keep newspaper

\nCONNECTICUT - After their adviser quit over a coded message\nthey slipped into the school newspaper, two high school students\nhave hired a lawyer to force the school to find a new adviser\nbefore the beginning of the school year.

Brendan Sullivan and Ben Popik were set to be the editors in\nchief of Simsbury High School's student newspaper, The Forum,\nnext year.

Michigan House delays anti-theft bill

\nMICHIGAN - A bill that would have made the theft of free\nnewspapers a punishable offense in Michigan is on hold after failing\nto make it out of a House committee last year.

House Bill 5536 provides that individuals who take 100 or more\ncopies of a free publication could face a maximum jail term of\n90 days and fines of up to $100.


Battle brews over alcohol ads in college media

\nPENNSYLVANIA - A federal judge rejected a college newspaper's\nchallenge to a state ban on alcohol advertising in school publications\nin July.

The Pitt News, a University of Pittsburgh student newspaper,\nargued that the state's ban on advertising was unconstitutional\nbecause it violated its First Amendment free speech and free press\nrights.