Media organizations highlight concerns in brief





A group of 25 media and education organizations have joined in support of student journalists at Governors State University in a case that could have profound implications for college press freedom in three Midwestern states.

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\n The students will face the university this fall when Hosty v. Carter comes before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.

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\n Editor Jeni Porche, managing editor Margaret Hosty and reporter Steven Barba allege school officials exercised prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment when Dean of Student Affairs Patricia Carter demanded The Innovator's printer refrain from printing any issues that had not been approved by a university administrator.

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\n Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan filed a brief on Carter's behalf, which asks the court to apply the standards for censorship set by the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court's Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier decision.

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\n Media and education groups, including the Student Press Law Center, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists, filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the students, which asks the court to rule against extending the Hazelwood standard to college students.

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\n The brief states that the environment in high schools is different than that of a college or university and use of such oppressive censorship would be inappropriate at the college level. While the courts have found younger students to be entitled to fewer liberties than the general public, the courts are consistent in protecting expression at the postsecondary level, according to the brief.

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\n ''The driving force prompting the enactment of the First Amendment was the founders' unwavering commitment to the freedom of the mind. Nowhere is the mind more provoked, more nurtured, more challenged to new levels of enlightenment than on the university campus,'' the brief states. ''Hazelwood did not, and should not be interpreted to have taken these fundamental precepts of college education into account when it diluted high school students' First Amendment rights for the benefit of deferring to the state's educational mission.''

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\n Last November a federal district judge dismissed the students' claims against other school officials, but allowed the claim against Carter to go forward. Carter filed an appeal in December with the Seventh Circuit.

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\n The attorney general's brief argues the students failed to show Carter had stopped the newspaper from being printed, or that they had a First Amendment right protecting them from prior review to begin with. The Innovator is described as a ''nonpublic forum'' in the brief because of what the university claims was the ''common practice'' of having an adviser sign off on issues before they were printed. The students claim that the adviser never approved the content of the paper.

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\n ''This is a simple case of failure of proof: Plaintiffs failed to provide either enough evidence to justify a jury verdict on their First Amendment claim, or enough authority to justify finding that it was


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Fall 2002, reports