Thursday, December 01, 2005

Student Speech & Due Process

Continuing on today's college-themed posts: a day before I planned to show some "Chappelle Show" skits (ah, irony) in my Jamestown Community College class, news from Syracuse University regarding the cancellation and uncancellation of the student-run television station. This article doesn't detail what was aired that was offensive and/or discriminatory. It does (by implication, mostly) raise some interesting questions about where the Freedom of Expression lines could be drawn and how those decisions could be made. As a private school, SU has much more freedom than a SUNY school to regulate student activity. Private school-student relations have generally been viewed as more contractual in nature, where, conversely, Constitutional rights are implicated when a public school takes action, as it is an arm of the State. The due process granted to the TV execs here frankly surprises me, as private schools have much more latitude to decide disciplinary issues unilaterally. It sounds as if the students were given an opportunity to be heard and to present a case to the panel of faculty. That's commendable, from my perspective on civil rights, and also as a lawyer in the field--it clearly creates a record of action, following a set policy, which would be invaluable for the college to prove it isn't imposing prior restraint, but instead dealing with a disciplinary issue.


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