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Chicago State Hit With Costs and Attorney's Fees in First Amendment Suit

Nearly five years after Chicago State University (CSU) unlawfully retaliated against former student editor George Providence II and former faculty advisor Gerian Steven Moore for the content of several articles published in Tempo, CSU’s student newspaper, Providence’s and Moore’s lawsuit against the university has finally concluded with a hefty penalty for CSU: $213,231 in court costs and attorney’s fees. Federal Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer summarized the facts of the case: Plaintiffs claimed that Moore — a faculty member at Chicago State University — was terminated in retaliation for his refusal to censor the student newspaper, Tempo, which had published a series of news stories critical of the University administration. Plaintiffs alleged further that the University took action to shut down the paper. Plaintiff Providence was the student editor of that publication. Publication of Tempo ceased, and Providence withdrew from the University, citing harassment by University officials. The complaint sought a declaration that Moore's termination and Defendants' interference with the publication of Tempo violated the First Amendment .... FIRE’s Azhar Majeed reported on the court’s decision to reject motions for summary judgment in 2010. In 2012, the court held that CSU’s firing of Moore in retaliation for the content of the school newspaper violated the First Amendment and directed CSU to reinstate him. The court recognized that the prior review and other restrictions placed on the newspaper constituted additional First Amendment violations but concluded that Providence could not obtain relief through the court because he voluntarily withdrew from CSU and was free to return pending payment of his tuition. In an order issued on March 29, 2013, which was just recently made public online, Judge Pallmeyer ordered CSU to pay $2,502.48 in court costs and $210,729.50 in attorney’s fees. Colleges and universities should remember that protecting student speech and press contributes enormously to the functioning of an institution and to the growth of society at large. Each “marketplace of ideas” must be allowed to thrive, and students should feel free to share information and discuss important issues—even if it results in students criticizing the university. Universities who forget this and forget their legal obligations under the First Amendment will, and should, pay the price.

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