By Jon Parton
The cornerstones of any great democracy are the rights to speak freely and of the press to hold government accountable to the people.
The capstone that marks these rights in this country is found in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
A few weeks ago, the former and current editors-in-chief of the University Daily Kansan sued top administrators at the University of Kansas after KU’s Student Senate voted to reduce the newspaper’s funding.
The lawsuit alleges that student senators were unhappy with the Daily Kansan’s editorial content and, on that basis, decided to cut its funding in half.
One member of KU’s Fee Review Committee said to a Kansan news editor that the staff “got what you deserved,” according to the lawsuit.
The idea that a government organization, even a student government, would cut funding due to disagreement with editorial views is ridiculous and an egregious violation of the First Amendment.
If newspapers were subject to the whims of elected officials, our rights as informed citizens would come under threat.
The freedom of college as a marketplace of ideas would come under threat.
Fortunately, we believe the law is on the Daily Kansan’s side.
In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the court ruled that student freedom of expression is protected by the Constitution and is not subject to censorship.
In Joyner v. Whiting, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that student newspapers could not be censored through means of “direct or indirect assistance.”
In State Board for Community Colleges v. Olson, the court ruled that student government officials (like KU’s Fee Review Committee) must abide by the First Amendment as well, meaning they cannot withdraw funding based on disagreements with editorial content.
The staff of the Collegian supports the University Daily Kansan in its pursuit of justice as well as the First Amendment rights of all student media.