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Report: College Policies Restrict Press Rights

July 30, 2020
 
 

Many private colleges, and even some public institutions, institute policies that violate the freedom of both student media organizations and professional publications, according to a new report by a fellow at the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement.

The report by John Wilson, co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ "Academe" blog and a 2019-20 fellow at the center, was published July 29.

Wilson surveyed the top 25 American colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report and found that multiple policies at these institutions and others restrict media access to campuses, directly censor student publications and forbid staff members from speaking to reporters without permission. Wilson’s report also includes nine policy recommendations for colleges to improve how they treat members of the media and reinforce freedom of the press on campus.

While private institutions have the legal right to ban journalists and other members of the news media from their campuses, public institutions are bound by the First Amendment to provide open access to their spaces and employees. Some public colleges have nonetheless enforced policies that violate the Constitution, Wilson wrote. He argues that all colleges should treat student and professional media freedoms similar to those of academic and expressive freedom on campus and “understand that an atmosphere of liberty is essential for the goals of higher education.”

“Higher education needs to take an affirmative stand to promote and aid the press in their work to expose wrongdoing reporting the news,” Wilson wrote in the report. “When universities recognize that the media are not a threat to their brand identity, but a partner in the pursuit of truth, they can make changes to help rather than hinder the press.”

Wilson will discuss the issue of press freedom on campus during a webinar hosted by the center today at 2 p.m. Eastern.

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