June 22, 2005
I’ll leave more detailed discussion of the legal aspects to the experts, but I just want to quickly point out an Inside Higher Ed piece on the Seventh Circuit’s recent en banc opinion in Hosty v. Carter. I’m not sure what’s more depressing, the headline (“Colleges Can Censor, Too”) or the following prospect:
“This decision gives college administrators ammunition to argue that many traditionally independent student activities are subject to school censorship,” Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said in a news release. “I fear it’s just a matter of time before a university prohibits a student group from bringing an unpopular speaker to campus or showing a controversial film based on the Hosty decision. Such actions invite havoc on college campuses.”
Basically, Hosty casts doubt on the idea that college newspapers deserve substantially more latitude in determining their own content than those at high schools. Never mind the facts that (as the Seventh Circuit minority pointed out) college students are adults, whereas high school students are not, and that colleges have a vastly different purpose from that of high schools. Hence the existence of academic freedom only at the former.
Bottom line: Hosty will give college administrators yet another excuse to indulge their taste for squelching speech—and that’s never a good thing for liberty.