Ruling:College newspapers remain free of censorship

By Gus Bode

Ruling:College newspapers remain free of censorship

Federal court rules in favor of student newspaper

College administrators do not have the right to censor student-run publications at universities and journalists at the collegiate level are guaranteed unabridged First Amendment rights, a federal court upheld Thursday.


Journalists at Governor State University’s student-run newspaper sued the school after the dean closed the doors to the newspaper office because of published articles critical of the administration.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the GSU journalism students after three-months of deliberation. The case affects college in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, the three states under the jurisdiction of the federal court.

If the three-judge panel had ruled in favor of the university it would have meant administrators could exercise censorship of college media. For example, SIU University officials would have been given the power to review materials before publication in the DAILY EGYPTIAN at SIUC, the Alestle at SIU-Edwardsville and any other student-run media and any other forum for student expression.

“People tend to think this is just a newspaper thing, but this is about free expression for everybody,” Jim Killam, former president of the Illinois College Press Association, said in January after the federal court began hearing the case. Killam’s term as president expired in February.

GSU Dean Patricia Carter stopped publication of The Innovator in the fall of 2000. After losing a first-round district court battle, Carter appealed the ruling, saying she did not violate the students’ First Amendment right to free press by censoring the paper. This led to the case being heard by the federal appeals court, whose ruling Thursday indicated that Carter was in violation of those rights. The case was sent back to the district court and the students will now proceed with their original lawsuit.

Lance Speere, current president of the Illinois College Press Association and general manager of the DAILY EGYPTIAN, said he believes Carter will have a difficult time fighting the lawsuit. This is in part because of the fact that, in Carter’s previous arguments, she cited a U.S. Supreme Court case, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, permitting some censorship of high school publications, but the appeals court said that case does not apply to one involving college publications.

Steve Binder, spokesman for SIU President James Walker and former journalist of 20 years, previously said that even if SIU administrators were given the chance to censor students, it does not mean they would.


“This is an institute of higher education, not an institute of censorship,” Binder said.

Reporter Brian Peach can be reached at [email protected]