Censorship Takes Alternative Form

In 1992 the state of Kansas took a stand for student journalists’ rights by passing Kanas Student Publications Act, which states that:

…student editors of student publications are responsible for determining the news, opinion, and advertising content of such publications. Student publication advisers and other certified employees who supervise or direct the preparation of material for expression in student publications are responsible for teaching and encouraging free and responsible expression of material and high standards of English and journalism. No such adviser or employee shall be terminated from employment, transferred, or relieved of duties imposed under this subsection for refusal to abridge or infringe upon the right to freedom of expression conferred by this act.

However, while the leaders of Kansas schools may not be able to engage in censorship through prior restraint as in states without an anit-Hazelwood law, they can use other methods.

This week members student newspaper at my alma mater, The University of Kansas, sued the chancellor and the vice provost for student affairs after that paper received funding cuts to the program this year. According to the Kansas City Star, “The suit says a $45,000 annual reduction in student fees for the newspaper was retaliation for an editorial criticizing the Student Senate.”

This $45,000 dollar loss cut the funding the publication received in half and as a result the University Daily Kansan was forced to eliminate 13 paid student positions and leave its news adviser position unfilled according to the an article published by the Student Press Law Center.

This is censorship plain and simple. By cutting funding the university is giving students less opportunity to be educated as citizens by reading a campus paper free from the chilling effect the UDK claims this action has caused.

As a result of defendants’ actions, plaintiffs [the Kansan] have been chilled in the exercise of their fundamental rights under the First Amendment,” according to the complaint. “Plaintiffs, therefore, have suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy of law.

Additionally it is hurting the students who are paying to attend the William Allen White School of Journalism to receive their education. The loss of positions eliminates opportunities for the students to get practical experience in their field of study, and the loss of the advisory position leaves students without a trustworthy professional to advise them.

In fact, the university’s actions seem to be in direct contradiction with its published values that state:

The university is committed to excellence. It fosters a multicultural environment in which the dignity and rights of the individual are respected. Intellectual diversity, integrity, and disciplined inquiry in the search for knowledge are of paramount importance.

If the university itself and the student senate truly valued intellectual diversity and disciplined inquiry in the search of knowledge, it would be proud that members of its student press are willing to the pursue tough stories as it shows the J-School is doing what it was established to do – train good journalists.

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