Wildcats Tamed by Moot Standing
The precedent applies only to Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, but can be cited elsewhere and thus threatens collegiate student press rights nationally. Moreover, because of the lengthy process typical of court challenges to violations of civil liberties, most student challenges would be effectively mitigated by graduation, enabling more extensive censorship by college administrators.
The Student Press Law Center does point to a few streaks of sunlight in the decision. First of all, the appeals court ruling negates an "awful" lower court decision in favor of administrative censorship. Second, the ruling specifies a process by which student journalists may challenge such interference, namely by including the editor of the paper in the suit, adding the current editor (assuming the former moved on) to the mix, and to ask for declaratory relief along with minimal monetary damages at the outset.
Once again, when viewed alongside the 2005 Hosty decision, student press rights are increasingly in peril at the collegiate level. My May 2007 article on editorial cartooning on campuses only cements this point. At a time when future journalists should be entrusted with the responsibilities of their professional counterparts, and when the students themselves test the boundaries of acceptability, they are roped in by administrators hostile to the concept of a free press and courts' willingness to justify their actions.