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SPJ drafts statement to designate student media as public forums

For Immediate Release:

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mead Loop, Vice President, Campus Chapter Affairs (607) 274-3047, mloop@spj.org

Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927 -8000, ext. 211, bking@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – SPJ has issued a statement to colleges and universities around the country, urging them to designate their student publications as public forums that would be free from censorship by administrators.

The language states: “Student media are designated public forums, and free from censorship and advance approval of content. Because content and funding are unrelated, student media are free to develop editorial policies and news coverage with the understanding that students and student organizations speak only for themselves. Administrators, faculty, staff or other agents shall not consider the student media's content when making decisions regarding the media's funding.”

“Students should use their rights to a free media,” said Mead Loop, vice president for campus chapter affairs. “I encourage colleges and universities to reaffirm their commitment to fostering a fair and open press for students."

The statement was developed as a result of a 2005 decision made by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Hosty v. Carter. That case involved censorship of a student-run newspaper at Governors State University in Illinois. In making its ruling, the 7th Circuit ruled that the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier -- that public school officials can censor high school newspapers -- also applies to public colleges and universities in the 7th Circuit, which encompasses Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Consequently, SPJ has called upon public and private colleges and universities nationwide to adopt language calling student media “designated public forums.”

“Censorship is un-American, and it is just as bad on college campuses as anywhere else,” said David Carlson, president of SPJ. “Allowing college administrators to control the content of student newspapers is not much different from allowing the White House to control the content of the Washington Post."

The statement has been printed on wallet-sized cards. Student journalists and advisers are encouraged to use these cards to educate others, including administrators, about the rights of student media. The cards can be used as a model for adoption by colleges or as a guide in a school's own statement of principle. Individuals who wish to obtain cards may contact Mead Loop, vice president of campus chapter affairs at (607) 274-3047 or mloop@spj.org.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.


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