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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ind. Law - U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to hear Hosty v. Carter impacts Indiana colleges

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette had an editorial yesterday titled "Stifling student press." Some quotes:

The [U.S. Supreme Court] last week rejected a request from students at Governors State University to hear an appeal of Hosty v. Carter, a decision that limits First Amendment protections at public universities. The decision directly applies to only schools in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, which fall under the jurisdiction of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, where it has the effect of subjecting university students to the same publication restraints as high school journalists. * * *

In the Governors State case, the Chicago-area students challenged a university dean who demanded prior content approval after the newspaper published articles critical of the administration. The lower court ruled that the Hazelwood decision, a 1988 Supreme Court decision that limited protections for high school journalists, also extended to public college students.

Merv Hendricks, director of student publications at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, said the Supreme Court’s decision was troubling for student journalists. “We are very concerned that there is potential for administrators to begin to exercise the authority that has been granted by virtue of this ruling,” he said. “I think we here in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin are especially concerned.”

David Studinski, a 2003 Homestead High School graduate who is editor of the Daily News at Ball State University, also was disappointed by the court’s decision. “The university needs to let students be accountable,” he said. “If we are going to be baby-sat until we are 23 or 24, how will our potential employers ever know how responsible we are?” Studinski asked.

Student journalists at a handful of universities, including the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, have convinced administrators to declare their publications as “public forums,” where student editors would be afforded full editorial control.

Studinski said student journalists at Ball State have discussed asking for designation of the newspaper as a public forum, but are satisfied now that the BSU president is respectful of student speech.

The administration of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne currently exercises no editorial control over The Communicator, which receives no direct funding from the university. But a change of administration and the fact that the newspaper uses campus facilities could mean that circumstances might change, so student journalists there would be wise to seek the newspaper’s designation as a public forum.

In the meantime, they have reason to be disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision and grateful that the IPFW administration recognizes the importance of First Amendment protections and the right to learn by doing.

For complete coverage of this issue, see the Hosty v. Carter Information Page at the Student Press Law Center. It includes a history of the case, what looks to be links to all the appellate filings, commentary, etc. The en banc 2005 7th Circuit opinion is here); the 7-4 opinion was written by Judge Easterbrook.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 2, 2006 06:42 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions | Indiana Law