University of Memphis: Student Newspaper Budget Cut Over Content

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Memphis

In May 2012, the University of Memphis’ Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) reduced funding for the student newspaper The Daily Helmsman by $25,000, a one-third decrease from the campus publication’s previous funding levels. After concerns were raised about the cuts, SAFAC chair and Dean of Students Stephen H. Petersen questioned “whether the paper is really serving the students of the campus,” and SAFAC member and Student Government Association President Tyler DeWitt made similar content-based statements as reported in the press. FIRE wrote to UM President Shirley C. Raines in August 2011, explaining how the funding cuts violated the Helmsman’s First Amendment rights and SAFAC’s obligation to distribute student activity funds in a viewpoint-neutral manner. UM opened an investigation into the funding decision, and on August 31, 2012 President Raines announced that the funding cuts would be reversed and the Helmsman’s budget restored.

There is currently no media coverage for this case.
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    January 23, 2014

    On most college campuses, the student newspaper is entrusted with reporting on issues important to the campus community and with holding powerful campus authorities accountable. But after the student newspaper at the University of Memphis found its budget slashed by $25,000 because the student government and university administration didn’t like the paper’s critical, investigative reporting on their activities, The Daily Helmsman’s role as a campus watchdog was threatened. Chelsea Boozer was editor-in-chief of the Helmsman when the paper’s budget was cut in May 2012. In FIRE’s latest video, Boozer talks about the events leading up to the paper’s funding cut and how the actions taken by […]

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    We’ve kept Torch readers updated on the free speech case involving the University of Memphis (UM) student newspaper The Daily Helmsman, which had $25,000 cut from its funding through a process that strongly suggested the involvement of viewpoint discrimination by the student government body responsible for distributing funding from student activity fees. Fortunately, the sum of the on-record comments and documented exchanges in which the content of the Helmsman was criticized convinced UM of the impropriety of its funding decision, and the Helmsman‘s funding was restored.  FIRE has since received a copy of the results of the investigation conducted by […]

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  • University of Memphis Student Fee Board Only Funds Speech it Likes

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    The Student Press Law Center is reporting on a ridiculous situation at the University of Memphis. Memphis’s student-run Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) has voted to reduce the funding for the student newspaper The Daily Helmsman by $25,000, or one-third of its previous funding. Here’s the kicker: Helmsman editors said they have been told by several committee members — including student government representatives and university administrators — that the cuts are due to growing displeasure with the newspaper’s content. If this is true, it represents a grave First Amendment violation. If the University of Memphis, a public institution, wanted […]

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