(AP) A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by former collegiate journalists who said their First Amendment rights were violated when the school’s dean of student affairs insisted on reviewing the paper before publication.
In a 7-4 decision Monday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Patricia Carter, Governors State University’s dean of student affairs, should not be liable for “constitutional uncertainties.”
The newspaper’s editor in chief, Jeni Porche, and reporters Margaret Hosty and Steven Barba sued university trustees and a number of school officials after Carter telephoned the paper’s printer in 2000 and told him not to go to press until she had reviewed the contents.
A federal judge had previously dismissed the civil charges against everyone except Carter.
The 7th Circuit Court also ruled that the university had a right to reasonably regulate the paper’s contents because it is published under the auspices of Governors State.
“Let us not forget that academic freedom includes the authority of the university to manage an academic community and evaluate teaching and scholarship free from interference by other units of government, including the courts,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for the majority.
Dissenting Judge Terence Evans said free speech restrictions “have no place in the world of college and graduate school.”
The former student journalists planned to appeal.
The Illinois attorney general’s office, which defended Carter, was pleased with the decision.
“We’re in favor of press freedom for college students,” Solicitor General Gary Feinerman said. “But the law was so unclear.”
The school, in University Park, south of Chicago, has about 6,000 students.