Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Rising Phoenix

By Shawn Healy

When Illinois Governor Blagojevich signed the College Campus Press Act last Friday, the state finally closed the book on a deplorable chapter that threatened student journalism at colleges throughout the country.

Turn back the clock to 2001 when Patricia Carter, Dean of Student Affairs at Governors StateUniversity in University Park, Illinois, prevented publication of the Innovator to impede dissemination of articles critical of the campus administration (the paper has not been published since). Three former student journalists, led by Margaret Hosty, filed suit and ultimately lost their case when the 7th District U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in favor of Carter, suggesting that her decision was complicated by the unsettled state of student press law.

When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to revisit the case on appeal, college students at state institutions in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, were relegated to the press protections of high school students, namely court-sanctioned administrative censorship.

Such intrusion upon press freedom at the college level is simply unprecedented, and several states responded to a threat that transcended the Midwest. In 2006, the State of California acted to extend professional press freedoms to college papers, and this summer, Oregon went further to include high school students. Illinois, the epicenter of the threat, was right to follow suit with similar legislation.

The College Campus Press Act prohibits public officials and administrators at state-funded institutions of higher learning from reviewing and censoring the content of student newspapers prior to publication. Violations of this act may result in civil action with monetary compensation awarded. Media advisers are protected from arbitrary firings should they refuse to suppress student journalists. College reporters are still liable for content deemed obscene or inciting violence, and institutions may not be sued for content created by student journalists.

In the end, Margaret Hosty and her peers found vindication in the Prairie State with the passage of the College Campus Press Act. From these ashes a new student paper, The Phoenix, has risen at Governors State, an appropriate symbol for the restoration of college press rights in Illinois.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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