College Paper Suffers Defeat

High court won't hear case involving Illinois dean who censored students

The Supreme Court this week refused to hear the appeal of student reporters at an Illinois university whose dean insisted on reviewing the school newspaper before publication.

But despite the concern of student journalism advocacy groups, Harvard administrators and scholars say that freedom of speech is not in danger on this campus.

After the student newspaper at Governors State University (GSU) criticized the school’s administration, the dean said the paper had to be approved before publication, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Harvard administrators do not censor student publications, even when administrators are concerned about their content, Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd said yesterday.

“There are always one or two high-profile cases every year dealing with freedom of the press or freedom of speech in higher education,” Kidd said. “I do not think we will see one here [at Harvard] because we [in the administration] have a hands-off attitude.”

And Harvard Law School professors said the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case does not imply that it agrees with the ruling of the federal appellate court. The appellate judges ruled that the GSU dean has immunity from a lawsuit.

“The Supreme Court’s denial or grant of certiorari is entirely

discretionary,” Beneficial Professor of Law Charles Fried wrote in an e-mail. “A denial of ‘cert’ has absolutely no precedential effect.”

But students are better off focusing advocacy efforts in other areas, according to Smith Professor of Law Martha Minow.

“This is not a moment when latitude for student speech is on the ascendency in the courts and those who want greater student voice may want to pursue advocacy in other arenas and use of new media with greater student control,” Minow wrote in an e-mail.

Still, many advocacy groups worry that administrators will use the ruling in the case, Hosty v. Carter, to exercise greater control over student publications.

“The court really messed this up,” said Northern Illinois Newspaper Association spokesman Jim Killam.

Administrators could take advantage of the ruling’s “vague wording,” the president of College Media Advisers, Inc., Lance Speere, said.

College Media Advisers is an organization that works with student newspapers to ensure that the papers are aware of their rights.

Specifically, it urges college newspapers to obtain acknowledgement from school administrators that the newspaper represents a public forum that is afforded constitutional protection, Speere said.

The ruling could possibly have ramifications for other forms of student expression, such as literary magazines and art exhibits, which are not always recognized as public forums, Speere said.

GSU Press Affairs Coordinator Eric Matanyi declined to comment on the case yesterday.

GSU has a new newspaper, The Phoenix, which is not currently printing because it does not have an editor, according to Matanyi.

Matanyi said that he is “not allowed to comment” on whether that paper is censored by the administration.