The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Censorship unacceptable

Freedom of speech is not a new issue to our campus or readers of The Spectator. From funding of seemingly ideological campus activities to religious service learning to RAs leading Bible studies, students have been able

to pick up their campus newspaper every Monday and Thursday for the latest details.

However, The Spectator and every other campus newspaper in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana do not constitutionally have First Amendment rights in the eyes of our U.S. Supreme Court.

Last September, I wrote a column detailing the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to allow censorship of collegiate press. In a final effort to save university media’s First Amendment rights, former student journalists petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

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The Supreme Court – mind you, the same court in which Anna Nicole Smith took the stand Tuesday – declined to grant a writ of certiorari this month, thus turning its back not only on student journalists but higher education as a whole.

The case, Hosty v. Carter, began when the Governors State (Ill.) student newspaper, The Innovator, refused to allow administrators access to copy before publication. The story attacked the integrity of a dean at the school, and the administration asked for a retraction following its publication.

After editors refused a retraction, administrators at Governors State ordered the printing press to stop producing the paper, resulting in a lawsuit, according to the Student Press Law Center.

In effect, by allowing college administrations to have ultimate control over collegiate press, the U.S. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decided university newspapers should be as unprotected as K-12 student newspapers, thus threatening the ability of university student journalists to put checks on university administration.

“The Hosty decision reflects a certain hostility not to the press, but to college campuses and academic freedom,” said John Wilson, an author on academic freedom and an informal advisor of the students in the Hosty case.

You have a right to, and a necessity for, unbiased, accurate information regarding the people who are hired to work for you, and for the taxpayers of the state, in the UW System. For a court to suppress our ability to provide you with that information not only is a disservice to us as student editors but also to you.

In speaking with Wilson, who founded, I realized that the only way to save free expression in collegiate press is through persistent nonconformity on the part of student editors. Wilson said the most likely effects of Hosty will be increased self-censorship by students at campus newspapers and closer oversight by faculty advisers.

At The Spectator, we are lucky to have had an advisor who believes in learning by experience, which includes only offering advise when we seek it. During my five semesters at the paper, I have never felt pressure to kill a story due to controversy. I am very aware, however, of the fine line that exists for editors between self-censorship and responsibility.

Additionally, the Student Press Law Center advises editors of campus papers to seek a declaration of “public forum” from university administrators. If campus publications can prove their service as a “public forum,” they can enjoy more First Amendment protection, but the administration is still ultimately in control.

I spoke with Vice Chancellor Andy Soll Tuesday, and he said because the Eau Claire administration, in his memory, has never seen a need for prior review of student press, such a statement wouldn’t be necessary here.

In dealing with our administration at Eau Claire, I appreciate how accommodating they are to student press. But to suggest it is unnecessary to take measures to guarantee free speech is irresponsible and unfair to future student editors. Additionally, the fact that the vast majority of student editors in the country who have taken declarations of public forum to their campus administrators have been shot down is an alarming indication of what is happening at other schools.

If we were to have a statement signed by administrators at Eau Claire guaranteeing a protected student press, our university, instead of receiving national attention for limits to free speech as it has the past two years, may serve as an example of an institute of higher education that protects the First Amendment rights of its students.

Pelleymounter is a senior print
journalism and political science
double major and a news editor of
The Spectator.

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Censorship unacceptable