College Media Matters joins College Freedom, FIRE, and Chicago Reader in questioning and decrying the proposed free speech and free press restrictions currently under consideration at Northeastern Illinois University. The most disheartening part of the regulations for press lovers: a planned prior approval scheme encompassing all print newspapers and pamphlets appearing on campus.
NEIU officials propose to demand that any pamphlet or newspaper to be distributed on campus must receive their prior approval. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled for many decades that the notion of government “prior review” and “prior restraint” of publications is totally anathema to the notion of a free press. . . . By a strict reading of these rules, the student newspaper (and even official flyers from the administration) would have to wait a week until after it is published to be distributed.
In an e-mail to CMM, Wilson graciously outlined the relevant parts of the document. The most troublesome portion, he pointed out: Page 3, C(1): “Students, faculty, and staff wishing to express themselves through demonstrations or events involving distribution/display of visual communications. . . . must first complete a reservations request form . . . [and] must submit a a copy of all visual communications to be utilized.” On page 1, the distribution and display of visual communications is defined as “posting and/or handing out, signs, posters, flyers, newsletters, newspapers, photographs, and similar items.”
As Wilson explains:
It’s a little tricky unless you understand that the university considers the act of handing out a newspaper or a flyer to someone to be an “event.” It’s not clear how the university defines leaving a pile of newspapers for people to take, if that’s posting or handing out or something else. But it’s very specific in covering newspapers and restricting the act of handing them out to people.
It is nearing the year 2009. NEIU administrators top New Year’s resolution should be: Respect students’ free press rights. After all, the name of the student newspaper at the school is The Independent!