Georgia Students Sue University For Cutting Newspaper Budget

By: E&P Staff

Student editors at Armstrong Atlantic State University’s student newspaper, The Inkwell, have filed a lawsuit against the university and its student government association, claiming their First Amendment Rights were violated after the paper’s budget was cut.

The civil suit, filed last Tuesday in Chatham County Superior Court in Savannah, charges that the student government association cut The Inkwell’s budget in order to stifle the paper after a number of crticial stories appeared about the school’s administration.

“The university didn’t like our content choices, they didn’t like the stories and they didn’t like the way we covered the student government. It wasn’t how they wanted to be covered,” Angela Mensing, a former editor-in-chief of The Inkwell and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told the Student Press Law Center.

According the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when Mensing became editor-in-chief of The Inkwell, the paper became more agressive journalistically than it had been in the past, questioning decisions by administration and more thoroughly investigating stories on campus.

The first problem with this new approach came last September, when an assistant director of student activities complained the paper ran an interview with her without allowing her to “approve” the article first.

In February of this year, the paper ran a story detailing problems with Armstrong Atlantic’s reporting of crimes to federal authorities. The student police officer interviewed sat on a student government committee the next day that determined the paper’s budget, according the suit.

At that meeting, The Inkwell’s budget from student fees for 2008-09 was reduced from $54,500 to 39,740. Mensing had reqested funding of $70, 829. The paper was informed that it would have to make up the difference by selling an extra $10,500 of advertising.

“The budget reduction imposed on the Inkwell was greatly disproportionate, both in dollar and in percentage terms, to the reduction imposed on any other student organization,” read the complaints. “Almost all other organizations funded through the SGA other than the Inkwell received either an increase or flat-level budget for 2008-09.”

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