What is a student newspaper?

You know that you and Toto are in the land of Oz when even Kansas isn’t in Kansas anymore. And certainly the lawyer and administration at Barton County Community College in Kansas must be in some mystical land like Oz. They tried to fire the adviser of the student newspaper a couple of years ago for not controlling the content of the paper. And their argument was that it wasn’t a student newspaper so they had no First Amendment rights

The adviser has just taken a cash settlement in the case, but the school is still getting its way unless someone challenges the next issue of the Interrobang, if there is one. From the article:

They wrote in AP style. They tried to present both sides in every article. They secured their own advertising.

But, apparently, they didn’t write for a student newspaper.

and the reason, according to the college’s lawyer:

Because the publication was written and produced as part of classes taught by the instructor, he said, it amounted to no more than a “class project” — a project that Schartz (the adviser) could have censored without violating the First Amendment. The publication has long been written as part of journalism courses at the institution, in order to help students learn the craft first-hand.

Using this reasoning all community college papers in California and a huge percentage of college papers around the country would not be student newspapers. Granted, at some universities the paper is independent of any classes. That’s also true for some club-driven community college papers in the country. But surely this definition would not hold up had the case gone to court. Can’t blame the adviser for wanting to go on with her life, but someone needs to challenge this before some other addled administrator upset with content of the paper pulls the same stunt because it worked once.


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