WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has signed on to an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of Hosty v. Carter, a Seventh Circuit decision which endangers the freedom of student media on college campuses.
The brief, filed on behalf of eleven higher education organizations, asks the Supreme Court to intervene to stem the potentially disastrous implications of the Seventh Circuit Hosty decision. Signatories include ACTA, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education which filed the brief, the Coalition for Student & Academic Rights, Feminists for Free Expression, the First Amendment Project, Accuracy in Academia, Ifeminists.net, the Individual Rights Foundation, the Leadership Institute, the National Association of Scholars, and Students for Academic Freedom.
In Hosty v. Carter, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals declined to hold an administrator at Governors State University (GSU) in Illinois accountable for censorship of a student newspaper critical of the administration. Choosing to rely on the Supreme Court precedent of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, the Seventh Circuit applied to college media a case that severely curtailed the free speech rights of high school students. In addition, by finding that a college student organization could justifiably find itself under university control merely by virtue of its receipt of mandatory student fees––fees which in actuality belong to the student body itself, not the university––the Seventh Circuit directly contravened two Supreme Court decisions.
The case arose after GSU administrator Patricia Carter sought to review, before publication, the content of a student fee-driven newspaper, The Innovator. When student editor Margaret Hosty and others brought suit, the federal district court and a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit both decided in their favor. In June 2005, however, the Seventh Circuit en banc reversed itself.
“If allowed to stand, the Hosty decision poses a serious threat to the free exchange of ideas on our college campuses and wrongly appropriates high school guidelines to the college and university context,” ACTA president Anne Neal said about the group’s filing. “At a time when robust debate on campus is too often threatened by campus thought police, this case risks undermining even further the right and ability of college students to express their viewpoints.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a national organization of alumni and trustees dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality and accountability in higher education. It represents more than 200 colleges and universities across the country and is located in Washington, DC.