Supreme Court rules for independent Oregon student journalists

the-libertyThe U.S. Supreme Court let a ruling in favor of students at Oregon State University with the independent student newspaper, The Liberty, stand. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled last year in Oregon State University Students Alliance v. Ray that university officials violated the constitutionally protected freedoms of an independent student newspaper.

OSU officials confiscated the bins of The Liberty, and tossed them onto a trash heap. Officials confiscated the bins, which contained copies of the paper, without notice and threw them next to a dumpster. While the university claimed it did so as part of an effort to beautify the campus, it left untouched the numerous distribution bins of the other student newspaper, The Daily Barometer.

The students eventually had to enlist the help of the police to find out what happened to their property.

When questioned, OSU administration claimed that it took The Liberty’s bins in order to beautify the campus and clear it of too many newspaper bins, even though the more numerous distribution bins of the other student publication were left untouched. The university now claims that The Liberty is not a “student publication,” despite the fact that it is wholly written, edited, published, and distributed by OSU students on the OSU campus. The Liberty has been published since 2002 and has been distributed in bins on campus since the 2005-2006 academic year, when they received permission from the university to place their bins on campus.

“Universities should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas. Students don’t deserve censorship for having viewpoints that university officials don’t prefer. As the 9th Circuit concluded, university officials clearly violated the students’ constitutional freedoms. The Supreme Court’s decision to let that ruling stand is a victory for constitutionally protected free speech.”

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Oregon State University officials on behalf of the OSU Students Alliance, a recognized student organization that publishes an independent student paper.

“Students with viewpoints that don’t happen to be favored by university officials shouldn’t be silenced for their beliefs,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker, of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “The argument that the independent student paper’s bins were confiscated to ‘clean up’ the campus is not believable when none of the bins of the daily student newspaper were taken, and no notice was given to the paper.”