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Court limits student publishing freedom

Daily News Editor
Published July 4, 2005

Benjamin Bass — a former editor in chief for the Gargoyle, a University student humor magazine — said that Hosty appears threatening to student publications because it makes the First Amendment not seem applicable to college students, and reduces them to almost second-class citizens.

But Bass added that he had no fear that the Hosty decision would affect the University and its student publications.

“This sort of thing appears to happen at small schools where the student body might appear weak and submissive to a dictatorial administration,” Bass said.

“I believe there would be an uproar from the (University’s) 24,000 (students) if the administration were to try and lay a finger on the editorial freedom of student publications,” he added.

Alan Lenhoff, a general manager of Third Street Publications and co-chair for the University’s Board for Student Publications echoed Bass’s sentiments, saying that mostly smaller college publications could be at risk.

“I think the impact of these kinds of rulings is mostly on the small, weak publications,” Lenhoff said. “What about all the smaller college newspapers that operate with university subsidies or student fees, and sometimes are totally under the control of the college’s journalism department?” “These are the vulnerable newspapers,” he added.

Lenhoff said that large publications that have supportive alumni would help prevent them from being censored.

Megan Ganz, the editor in chief for the Michigan Every Three Weekly — a satirical campus publication funded by the University Activities Committee — said that the more she reads abut the decision, the more she fears its implications.

“Without the protection of the First Amendment, budding journalists and filmmakers could not fully explore their mediums without fear of reprisal,” Ganz said.

Last year, the E3W was pressured by UAC to halt distribution of an issue after questionable content was printed.

Ganz said that she does not expect the E3W to be affected by the Hosty decision, and that she expects support from the University and its respect for First Amendment rights to save it from such.

“At this point, I’m relying on the liberal atmosphere at (the University) to save the E3W from censorship. No one likes to be censored, especially not satirists. If the E3W didn’t ruffle some feathers, we wouldn’t be doing our job correctly. But I trust in our school administrators to realize that they can’t promote the University as an environment that fosters independent thought,” Ganz said.

The satirical nature of the E3W has made it the source of debate when it comes to censorship, but Ganz said that censorship should not be excused or permitted because of this.

“In my opinion, if you don’t like our paper, then you shouldn’t pick it up. College students are adults who can make their own decisions about what they will and will not expose themselves to,” Ganz said.

University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said President Mary Sue Coleman is strongly supportive of the current policy, where student publications have editorial freedom.

Peterson added that President Coleman has no intention of interfering with that, and that the Hosty decision does not affect the University’s student publications in any way.

The Hosty decision is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court, but the Court has not decided whether to hear it or not.