Stanley v. Magrath

The federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the University of Minnesota’s attempt to alter the funding mechanism for the student newspaper by allowing students to request a refund of the portion of their student activity fee that went to support the paper was unconstitutional after the court determined the school’s actions were content-motivated. The funding change was prompted by the board of regents’ displeasure over a finals week “humor issue” of the paper that the court said “would offend anyone of good taste….” Nevertheless, the court ruled that the university’s action violated the First Amendment and established a two-part test for determining when actions taken by a school against a student publication will be considered unconstitutional censorship: The publication must show (1) that the school’s action was adverse, i.e., that it caused harm to the publication (the loss need not be major; any “measurable loss” is sufficient); and (2) that the decision by the school to take action was “substantially motivated by the content” of the publication.