Samantha Godwin of The West Georgian (at the University of West Georgia ) reported yesterday on FIRE’s victory for the newspaper’s First Amendment rights. Earlier this summer, FIRE successfully challenged the unconstitutional cut of the paper’s annual funding allocation on the basis of the paper’s content, as well as the student government’s attempt to freeze the paper’s assets in the wake of controversial news and opinion pieces that had targeted fraternities and the student government itself.
After FIRE intervened, an investigation found that the allocation decision indeed had been based partly on content. A new review resulted not only in the restoration of all of the paper’s funding on that issue, but also in $3,600 of new funding.
As Godwin reported, the most recent controversy began
from the moment the Lovell article [satirizing fraternity life] hit the stands. Within a few days, students posted over two hundred comments to The West Georgian website, and wrote dozens of Letters to the Editor. […] Only one day after the article’s publication, the SGA’s “Suspension of the West Georgian” bill threatened to terminate the West Georgian by cutting its finances. […]
In an email to The West Georgian on April 26, 2009, however, [Student Government Association President Alan] Webster argued that his decision to cut funding “was not necessarily written in response to Lovell’s article. It relates more to a building issue over time with improper allotment of student activities funds that should otherwise be going to organizations that would promote unity.”
According to [former Editor-in-Chief Ellis] Smith, however, “Alan Webster told me firsthand on the phone that he specifically ‘couldn’t allow student fees to go to a publication that publishes this type of article.”
Congratulations to The West Georgian for winning this battle to defend freedom of the press.