A New Threat


Case involving Governors State newspaper elicits old fears about censorship of the collegiate press





A professor loses his job, even though his performance reviews were positive. Hiring practices are under fire at the university. Trouble is brewing in the student government, which is angering administrators. The student newspaper is covering all the conflicts, raising more debate around campus. The reporters trudge on, gearing up for another issue.

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\n One problem: Administrators want to read the issue before it goes to press.

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\n The editor says no and assumes that will end the discussion. That is, until a member of the administration calls the printer and orders the newspaper not be printed until given the OK by the powers that be.

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\n It sounds like every editor's nightmare, and in many cases, that is all it amounts to -- a bad dream. But in the case of the editors of The Innovator at Governors State University in Illinois, that bad dream has become a reality. And worse, that situation now has the potential to spread across the Midwest.

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\n This fall the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will hear a case that could leave a lasting imprint on college press throughout Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The case, Hosty v. Carter, was brought against college administrators by three student journalists. Innovator editor Jeni Porche, managing editor Margaret Hosty and reporter Steven Barba allege school officials exercised prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment when a dean from the school demanded The Innovator's printer refrain from printing any issues that a university official had not approved.

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\n The biggest problem for student press in the three states could come from arguments made in the brief filed on Carter's behalf by Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan. The brief states that student journalists at the college level are subject to the same First Amendment restrictions as high school students. The brief claims the standard set in the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, which limited high school students' First Amendment protection, should apply to colleges as well.

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\n The Student Press Law Center and 24 media organizations and college journalism departments countered Ryan's argument in a brief filed in August (see Media, page 6).

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\n If the court decides in favor of Carter, administrators at public colleges and universities across Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin would be allowed to require prior review and censor many student-edited publications.

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\n ''It really take everything out of our hands,'' said Matt Nestor, summer editor at the Western Courier at Western Illinois University. ''Not only would we have to report to the university


The SPLC recently launched a Web page with up-to-date information on the Hosty v. Carter case. Stay informed by visiting www.splc.org/gsu Read other coverage.


Fall 2002, reports