The Chicago Tribune reported (registration required) yesterday that the Illinois State Legislature has passed the College Campus Press Act, a bill that the Tribune reported “would allow college student journalists to write articles without fear that college officials could censor or bar publication of their work.” State Senator Susan Garrett, sponsor of the bill, said, “It just made sense to me that college journalists should have the same types of opportunities to present their materiadivl as journalists in the professional media…They shouldn’t be subjected to prior review by public university administrations, because that really stifles free speech.” The bill, which passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate and 112-2 in the House, now awaits only Governor Rod Blagojevich’s signature in order to become state law.
The bill came in the wake of the Hosty v. Carter decision, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a dean of students who exercised prior restraint over a student newspaper—unequivocally because of its viewpoint—was entitled to immunity from liability. Read FIRE’s amicus brief to the Seventh Circuit here.
If administrators are going to continue taking hugely unpopular steps to trample upon students’ rights and if judges are going to let them, then the people and their representatives are going to take action. It is always amazing how college administrators and many legal minds are willing to make excuses for censorship when the common sense of the public is so firmly against it, as shown by this overwhelming vote to guarantee student press freedom. Administrators take note—the Illinois bill is not the first of its kind, and it will likely not be the last.