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LSU Law Center’s Diversity Task Force Mulls Prior Restraint, Administrative Oversight of Student Newspaper

Louisiana State University’s (LSU’s) Law Center is weighing measures to improve “quantitative and qualitative diversity” amongst its student body, The College Fix reports. One suggestion posed by the university’s Diversity Task Force: ridding themselves of the free press.

In a report submitted to the law school late last month, the task force—selected last year by former Law Center chancellor and dean Jack Weiss and “comprised of faculty, students, alumni and community leaders”—makes more than a dozen recommendations for administrators and faculty to increase campus diversity. The most alarming of these proposals is the suggestion that the law school’s newspaper, The Civilian, be held to a set of “standards,” including extensive prior content review, prior restraint, and editorial control by multiple layers of administrators. These are the hallmarks of censorship that too often target the free press on America’s campuses.

The following relevant excerpts from the report detail LSU’s plans (emphasis added):

  1. Create an Office of Student Affairs

The Task Force recommends the creation of an Office of Student Affairs to enhance the quality of student life and community. … The Office of Student Affairs should … supervise the editorial board of The Civilian … .

  1. Develop Standards for The Civilian

The Task Force recommends The Civilian adopt standards of professional journalism. The Task Force is aware of numerous complaints regarding content published in The Civilian, including comments that were considered sexist and racist and that negatively affect the culture of the Law Center. The Task Force recommends The Civilian adopt standards of professional journalism consistent with Professor Emeritus Ken Murchison's report and recommendations. The Task Force also recommends the Law Center consider appointing a Faculty Advisor for The Civilian during the period before an Office of Student Affairs is created (see Recommendation [8] regarding the Office of Student Affairs).

As The College Fix observes, the report tasks the Office of Student Affairs with, “most importantly,” managing Title IX complaints; it also states that the office should “be led by an ‘Associate Dean’ of Student Life or Student Affairs who would also be responsible for addressing instances of discrimination or prejudice at the Law Center.”

As FIRE has reported, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) recent Title IX guidance is not legally binding, but it has been routinely enforced as though it were. Unsurprisingly, the threat of an OCR investigation and potential loss of federal funding for non-compliance means colleges have bent over backwards to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, even if it means freedom of expression takes a back seat. Thus, the idea that any Civilian content would be vetted not by student journalists or its editorial board, but by a Title IX coordinator, is troubling.

According to a Law Center press release, the next step will be “consideration and implementation of the recommendations,” and will begin immediately.

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