Campus press may face freedom turning point p.22

By: Allan Wolper College papers may
face high school-style

College press advocates are worrying about the mind-set of a U.S. Federal Appeals Court deciding whether to impose high school-style censorship on the college press.
The three-member district court in Cincinnati heard arguments last Thursday involving a Kentucky State University (KSU) decision five years ago to stop the distribution of The Thorobred, a student-edited yearbook.
The Student Press Laws Center posted excerpts from a pirated edition of the yearbook on its Web site (
The judges seemed oblivious to the First Amendment pleadings of attorneys who insisted KSU is violating student college press rights.
"Your constitutional arguments are not persuasive," federal judge John Ryan told Bruce Orwin, an attorney for Charles Kincaid, one of two former students suing the university."Any university that hands anything over to students ought to be closed."
Orwin's reply: "If you affirm the decision of the lower court, it will destroy the student press."
Irwin says that a negative decision will allow "college administrators across the United States to engage in great mischief" and promised to appeal if the judges ruled against him.
Mary Gibson, the KSU vice president of student affairs, confiscated the yearbook because the editors did not use school colors on the cover and because she was critical of the book's subtitle, Destination Unknown, a reference to the future of the historic, predominantly black institution.
Kentucky educators are debating whether to merge KSU with the University of Kentucky, since KSU is having financial problems. Gibson also complains the yearbook had too many national current event references and did not identify students in the photos of campus activities.
But student reporters for The Thorobred News, the campus newspaper, note that the yearbook was seized the day after Laura Cullen, the adviser to both the yearbook and paper, refused to kill a letter to the editor critical of the KSU president, Mary Smith. Cullen was transferred to a secretarial post for six weeks and did not get her newspaper adviser job back until she retained Orwin.
The appeals court is expected to decide later this year whether to uphold federal judge Joseph M. Hood's ruling that KSU could legally recall the yearbook because it was not a "public forum."
College journalists are jittery because Hood is the first jurist to cite a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court Case, Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeir, in rendering a ruling on the college press. In that case, the court voted 5 to 3 that Hazelwood, Mo., educators could censor their high school newspaper.
The Supreme Court also said, in a footnote, that its decision should not be used to curtail college and university press First Amendment rights.
J. Guthrie True, of Johnson, True & Guarniere, a Frankfurt law firm representing KSU, does not believe the college press will have a censorship problem even if the court finds in his favor.
"Judge Hood limited his opinion simply to whether the yearbook was a public forum," True says. "He left open the question of whether Hazelwood will apply to the college press. I would really be surprised if the court took the bold step of extending the Hazelwood decision to the University press."
The Cincinnati federal court case, known formerly as Kincaid vs. Gibson, was the talk of advisers at last week's College Media Convention in New York City.
Richard M. Goehler, an attorney who is heading a long list of press rights groups gathered by the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) to support The Thorobred, flew to New York after Thursday's court session to brief students and media advisers.
"I believe that once the court considers all the arguments, they will rule in our favor," says Goehler.
Mark Goodman, executive director of the SPLC, says "he has never seen so much outside support for the college press."
The American Society of Newspaper Editors, Society of Professional Journalists, Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press, and American Civil Liberties Union all filed briefs supporting the student press.
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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher March 27, 1999) [Caption]


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