Thirty years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a school sponsoring a newspaper has the right to censor its content.
The case in question, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, involved a high school principal who had censored student articles on parental divorce and student pregnancy under the argument that the material would be “unsuitable” for underclassman. The Supreme Court ultimately decided that the school had every right to censor an organization that it funded.
The Weekly has long been the independent student voice of the College, but as one of the many clubs that receives a budget derived from the student activities fee, we recognize the potential risk in printing this editorial, a risk established by the Court’s ruling.
Although we have yet to encounter any particular content which we feel would risk censorship, we have certainly run stories in the last year on topics that do not necessarily paint the College in the best light. We’ve led the coverage of a robbery on campus, the firing of a security company over alleged racial slurs, and multiple student protests, among others. In short, we have tackled difficult topics, but we are far from publishing the Pentagon Papers.
Our goal for this semester, though, is to take one step closer, to push our boundaries a little more between what should be reported and what needs to be reported. And, as always, we will be as fair and accurate as possible, even in our exploration of subjects that are highly sensitive, and we will push ourselves to dig deeper in our reporting.
Our goal for this semester, though, is to take one step closer, to push our boundaries a little more between what should be reported and what needs to be reported.
Bearing in mind the Hazelwood case, we nevertheless feel confident about this renewed journalistic vigor because it is an essential part of the liberal arts mission: to produce and encourage intelligent, free-thinking students unafraid to challenge the status quo. Any attempt to stifle coverage of vital information would be antithetical to this idea.
We view the responsibility to exercise the freedom of the press guaranteed by the first amendment similarly to that of your right to vote — something we continually implore our readers to do. Any type of inaction diminishes the influence of the freedoms we should be fighting to protect — now more than ever.
Ultimately, we feel the question boils down to this: if we neglect our responsibility as student journalists privileged by both the first amendment and our position at a liberal arts school, would we be risking the erosion of our essential freedoms?
We would argue yes.