Paper sues SUNY Albany after denied funds
NEW YORK — A student publisher sued the State University of New York at Albany and its student government in April for what he says was a violation of his First Amendment rights when his conservative paper was denied funding.
Scott Barea, publisher of The College Standard, said his request for funds was refused by members of the student government, the Central Council, because they disliked the paper’s criticism of administrators, faculty and student organizations. The council allocates $1.7 million in student activity fees.
In a June 9 hearing over Barea’s lawsuit, district Judge Thomas J. McAvoy denied Barea’s request that Central Council fund The College Standard pending a final outcome of the case.
Jamie MacNamara, chair of the Central Council, said the newspaper was denied funding because of its “tendency to misquote people.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled universities that use student activity fees to fund campus groups must remain viewpoint neutral, meaning they cannot withhold money based on the group’s ideology.
According to the university’s attorney, Lewis Oliver, the Central Council did not discriminate against the newspaper because of its political orientation.
Oliver said $3,500 was available to clubs seeking money for the first time, and many council members felt that money should go to other organizations. He argued that the Central Council is now providing money to several other conservative groups on campus.
Barea said he requested $5,862.05 from the Central Council in September 2002. By the time the funding was voted on and denied in February, it was reduced to $350, he said. Barea began publishing the newspaper with money from private donations but that money was soon depleted and he was forced to stop publication in May.
Barea said he remains confident that the court will eventually rule in his favor.
“My involvement in this situation is to defend not just my rights, but in fact, to defend the rights of everybody on this campus, including liberals, conservatives, anarchists and libertarians,” Barea said. “If any one interest group takes control of the student government, then what kind of university community do we have? Certainly not one about learning and understanding.”
Fall 2003, New York, reports, State University of New York, The College Standard