Earlier this year, I posted about a new case we filed against Oregon State University officials because of their censorship of an independent student newspaper on campus.
As a refresher, the students in this case discovered one day last winter that all of their distribution bins on campus were missing. Believing they were stolen, they contacted the police, who investigated the matter and found that no contrarian thieves were responsible for the missing bins and papers (as has been the case at many other schools)—instead, it was the OSU administration. The students were informed of the location of their bins and arrived at a storage yard to discover this:
OSU’s purported reasons for this are detailed in my previous post, but in summary, they just didn’t add up. For months, the students tried fruitlessly to convince the administration to allow them to put their bins back on campus. Once it was clear that the university intended to simply ignore the students’ pleas for equal treatment, we filed the lawsuit in federal court.
The good news is that after being sued, the university finally relented, changed their policy, and allowed The Liberty to replace their distribution bins on campus, giving them access equal to the other student newspaper on campus. The bad news is that despite the fact that the paper’s distribution bins were banned from most areas of campus for nearly an entire year pursuant to OSU’s policy, the judge found that the students had suffered no constitutional harm and dismissed the case.
We believe that the law is clear that a state university’s year-long period of censorship of student journalists constitutes a violation of their First Amendment rights. We trust that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will agree.