University of Memphis: Student Newspaper Budget Cut Over Content


University of Memphis

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

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.