Last week, the Student Press Law Center reported that the Texas Student Publications Board has removed the requirement of official prior review from its agreement with The Daily Texan, the University of Texas at Austin student paper and one of the only major college papers still subject to prior review. The new contract has been sent to the Texas Board of Regents for approval.
The original agreement between The Daily Texan and the Texas Board of Regents gave the Board complete final editorial control and liability for the content of the paper. The Board of Regents has recently proposed expanding the prior review requirement to student television and radio as well.
The Texas Board of Regents’ fears over liability are ungrounded and their actions unconstitutional; if they relinquish editorial control, as most university boards have, they will have no fear of libel suits. As SPLC notes,
Courts around the country have affirmed that prior review of student publications by state school officials is a violation of the First Amendment and courts have also said that public universities cannot be held legally responsible for the content of a student publication as long as they are not reviewing or controlling that content.
Executive director of College Media Advisers Ron Spielberger remarked, “Students do have the right to not be encumbered by university officials reading over their stories and saying ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ unless they are asked to make a comment.” Let’s hope, for the sake of students at the University of Texas at Austin and UT itself, that the board makes the right decision: relinquishes control of the paper and permanently suspends prior review.