College Censorship In Brief
N.Y. appeals court orders college to ?reinstate studentNEW YORK — A New York appeals court on Jan. 19 ordered Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., to reinstate graduate student Scott McConnell a year after he was kicked out of the school’s education program for writing a paper advocating strict classroom discipline, including spanking.On Jan. 13, 2005, Cathy Leogrande, the chair of the education department, wrote that she did not think McConnell should continue with the program. McConnell’s registration for the spring semester was withdrawn and he sued the school for not giving him due process rights.School officials argued that McConnell’s status as a “provisional” student, which meant he was only allowed in the program contingent on his academic fall semester performance, allowed them to bypass due process rights. The court disagreed. Citing an earlier case, the court wrote in its decision, “[When] a university has adopted a rule or guideline establishing the procedure to be followed in relation to suspension or expulsion that procedure must be substantially observed.” Case: McConnell v. LeMoyne College, 23.1 CA 05-02441 (N.Y. App. Div. Jan. 18, 2006).Student editor fired after reprinting ?Muhammad cartoonsILLINOIS — The editor in chief of the University of Illinois’ student newspaper was fired in March following his suspension after reprinting six of the Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad.The Danish cartoons, originally published in Denmark’s Jylland-Posten newspaper, sparked riots in countries around the world by Muslims who were offended by the depictions. Representations of Muhammad are widely discouraged in Islam for fear that they could lead to idolatry.The board of directors of the Illini Media Co., which owns and publishes The Daily Illini, found that Editor in Chief Acton Gorton “violated Daily Illini policies about thoughtful discussion of and preparation for the publication of inflammatory material,” a ccording to a statement released by the board. But Gorton disputed the “inflammatory material” policy violation and said that the policy was explicitly against advertising.Interim Editor in Chief Jason Koch said the policy covered editorial content as well as advertising and gives some control of the paper’s decision-making process to the editorial board. Koch would not provide the Student Press Law Center with a copy of the policy, citing a company policy against releasing information dealing with personnel issues, he said.Gorton is considering his legal options and is in talks with his lawyer, he said. College institutes ?mandatory prior ?review policy for paperLOUISIANA — Administrators at the University of Louisiana at Monroe moved the student newspaper from the communication department to the English department and instituted a prior review policy in February.“We are certainly disappointed,” said Bette Kauffman, the chair of the communication department. “We felt that an independent student newspaper in the communication department was valuable for the instruction of our students.”Student editors have said they are pleased with their new adviser and see the move as a positive one, according to local media reports.Stephanie Williams, the paper’s managing editor, said she thinks the new adviser has given good advice and improved the paper without censoring student content or opinions, according to an article in The New Star, a local paper.Kauffman said that Carlos Fandal, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, instituted prior review so there would be fewer grammatical and spelling mistakes in the student paper. But prior review is a misguided way to teach journalism, she said.“The problem with prior review, even when the intentions are good, is that we know clearly from both court cases and from research there is the potential of a silencing effect,” Kauffman said. “Students are not going to have the same freedom to speak and write.” Pentecostal university ousts husband and wife paper editorsMINNESOTA — Officials at North Central University dismissed two editors at the student newspaper in April after they refused to let administrators read content before publication.The move came after a decision by The Northern Light’s seven-member editorial board to stop producing the paper rather than publish only “good things” about the university, said Hope Bahr, the paper’s editor in chief. Bahr was removed from her position along with her husband, news editor Chuck Bahr.University spokesman Susan Detlefsen denied the Bahrs’ claim that the university only wanted “good news” in the paper. She said the decision to remove the editors was not strictly based on content, but based in part on “a conflict of interest in the hierarchy.” “It was determined by the administration to be an issue as to whether or not [Hope] could supervise her husband,” Detlefsen said.University President Gordon Anderson cited two main problems with the student newspaper’s coverage, according to an article in Inside Higher Ed, an online education news source. The first problem arose when Chuck Bahr wrote an article on the Soulforce Equality Ride, a bike tour protesting the anti-gay policies at 19 Christian and military campuses. Administrators were also upset with the student paper over an opinion article that questioned the Pentecostal doctrine of “speaking in tongues.” Proposed legislation designed to protect college journalistsCALIFORNIA — Two student press-friendly bills are making their way through the California State Assembly — one that would prohibit the theft of free publications and another that is designed to protect the First Amendment rights of college journalists.Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, authored the theft bill and Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, authored the college press rights bill. The California Newspaper Publishers Association supported both bills.The bill extending protection to college journalists is in response to the Hosty v. Carter decision out of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the CNPA. The appeals court decision held that the Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood decision limiting high school student free expression rights could extend to college and university campuses. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in February not to hear the Hosty case, letting stand the June 2005 decision out of the 7th Circuit (See story, Page 24).Ten days after the 7th Circuit decision, the general counsel for the California State University system sent a memo to university presidents saying the Hosty decision could impact California.“[T]he case appears to signal that CSU campuses may have more latitude than previously believed to censor the content of subsidized student newspapers, provided that there is an established practice of regularized content review and approval for pedagogical purposes,” wrote CSU general counsel Christine Helwick at that time.Although the 7th Circuit’s ruling is only applicable in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, Ewert said the memo raised some concerns amongst student press advocates in the Golden State.The bill prohibiting the theft of newspapers would make it a misdemeanor to take more than five copies of a free newspaper with the intent to recycle them for money, sell or barter them, deprive others of the ability to read the publication or harm a business competitor, according to CNPA’s Legislative Bulletin, an online publication. Officials pull paper with sex coverage off the racksMISSOURI — Administrators removed more than 800 copies of The Talon, the monthly student-run newspaper at Avila University in Kansas City, on Feb. 3 because of the paper’s cover, which featured a photo of unzipped pants and two pages of articles inside that discussed condoms, one-night stands and sex. The papers were removed because certain articles “violated the values of the university,” said Jeremy Lillig, a university spokesman. “[Avila] is an environment where students can question and discuss questions in a scholarly manner. This particular article did not uphold that.”Because Avila is a private university, administrators there do not have the same constitutional limitations in censoring student media that are found at public schools.Editor in Chief Ben Digman said university officials refused an offer to remove the offending pages and redistribute the publication.Digman said he would love to have some concrete guidelines from university officials about what is acceptable content to publish.“It is difficult to justify in our minds continuing to put out a publication that is watered down and censored,” he said. Board president ?orders newspaper ?to can storyMISSOURI — Student reporters at a Missouri community college were surprised to receive an e-mail in April from the board president demanding they not print an article.The staff of The Eagle was planning on printing an article that included the results of surveys the paper had sent to the six finalists who were running for college president. Staff members received an e-mail from college board President Jackie McKinsey saying, “PLEASE STOP THE ARTICLE. YOU ARE NOT TO USE THE ‘INTERVIEW’ MATERIAL.”“We were trying to do a really feel-good ‘here’s the candidates, meet them’ [article]. We weren’t doing anything wrong,” said James Foutch, editor of The Eagle, the student newspaper at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Mo.McKinsey said she e-mailed faculty adviser Kelly Anthony and the staff of The Eagle telling them not to print the candidates’ responses out of fairness to the three candidates who did not respond to the questionnaire. One candidate called the board search committee consultant to express concern that he would not have enough time to answer the questions, she said. The consultant advised McKinsey to instruct candidates not to answer the questionnaire.The Eagle was distributed minus the candidates’ responses to the questions. The staff distributed a four-page special edition that explained the situation and also provided a sample of the questionnaire, Foutch said.Administrators scrap ‘veto power’ policyILLINOIS — Administrators at a community college abandoned changes to its student newspaper’s handbook that gave greater editorial control to the faculty adviser after First Amendment concerns were raised. A revised edition of the handbook made the faculty adviser a voting member of the paper’s editorial board with “veto power” over the staff’s content decisions.A statement released by university officials said the handbook was never approved by the executive administration at Illinois Central College. John Avendano, vice president of student affairs, said administrators hold no veto power over The Harbinger, the college’s tri-weekly student newspaper.Avendano said the “veto power” language would be removed from the policy immediately, according to an article in the Peoria Journal Star, a local paper. He also said giving an administrator veto power is “contrary to good journalism,” according to a statement.Harbinger Editor in Chief Dawnell Zeine said the changes to the handbook were related to controversial articles published in the paper over the last year.The problems began in January when Michael Gray, an English professor, became the new faculty adviser, Zeine said. She said arguments erupted when Gray insisted on cutting back the paid hours of newspaper staff and asserting that the newly presented handbook was the final word.Florida university censors magazine for Jay Leno jokeFLORIDA — Jay Leno may be a popular late night comedian and talk show host, but school officials at Stetson University do not find his jokes very funny — at least in print.University officials banned a satirical student publication, Common Sense, from being distributed in October because the magazine quoted a joke Jay Leno made about Mexicans, and for running a picture of a dorm-room window that displayed a rainbow flag with a question mark superimposed over it, said the magazine’s Editor in Chief Frank Ganz.But in November, the university bowed to public pressure and publicity and allowed the second issue of the magazine to be distributed after reviewing it, he said.Michelle Espinosa, the dean of students, said that the matter was more of an issue because the paper is considered an off-campus group and not registered with the university as a student group, even though the staff and editors are students.“We’ve asked that when they’re prepared to distribute future editions, they submit their request, just like we do with any off-campus group,” Espinosa said. “Usually when they make that request, they will submit a sample of what they’re preparing to distribute on the campus. It generally goes through our student activity office, and its really just to keep a record of what has been distributed more so than any type of prior review at this point.”Ganz said he was optimistic about being able to distribute future issues of the satirical paper and that his staff was working with the private university. Student government cuts $63,000 from student mediaFLORIDA — The student government at Florida Atlantic University cut the student newspaper’s budget by $15,000 and cut $48,000 from the budget of the university’s student-run television station in February.The student government also passed a rule that mandated the newspaper, University Press, to include coverage from all of the university’s seven campuses in each issue, published weekly. Michael Koretzky, the newspaper’s adviser, said the budget cut and the senate’s content dictations constitute censorship and violate the staff’s First Amendment rights.Heather Boyer, senate speaker for the university’s Jupiter campus, said the poor quality of the paper was part of the reason she voted for the budget cuts. It is “not a good funding practice” to reward an organization that is not improving, she said.To address the continuing problems between the student government and the newspaper, Koretzky is moving forward with earlier plans to find a new source of funding for student media, apart from student fees. Koretzky said that a media consultant is scheduled to visit the university in June to discuss alternative funding options. Students’ lawsuit ?targets policies against ‘intolerance’GEORGIA — Two members of the College Republicans at the Georgia Institute of Technology are suing the public university, alleging the school’s Community Policies repeatedly restricted their free speech and continue to infringe on their rights.The university’s Community Guide for 2005-06 identifies several “Acts of Intolerance” that are considered “unacceptable,” including “any attempt to injure, harm, malign or harass a person because of race, religious belief, color, sexual/affectional orientation.”The university has used these “acts” to shut down the group’s affirmative action bake sale and its protest against the feminist play, “The Vagina Monologues.”The lawsuit, filed in federal court on March 16, asserts that under the university’s current policies, the religious views expressed by the two students — both described in the lawsuit as “religiously observant” — could be considered offensive and punishable. Amelia Gambino, spokeswoman for Georgia Tech, said she was unable to comment on the lawsuit because the university’s legal counsel was still reviewing it.
reports, Spring 2006