Campus publication loses in court

2010-03-25T00:15:00Z Campus publication loses in courtBy Cheryl Hatch, Gazette-Times reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

A judge in the U.S. District Court in Eugene has dismissed all claims against Oregon State University administrators in a case brought by the OSU Students Alliance and William Rogers.

On Sept. 29, 2009, Rogers, then the editor of The Liberty, a conservative-leaning journal, filed suit against OSU officials, contending that the university discriminated against the journal by limiting its distribution on campus.

The suit named as defendants OSU President Ed Ray; Mark McCambridge, vice president of finance and administration; Larry Roper, vice provost for student affairs; and Vincent Martorello, director of facilities services.

On Feb. 21, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken wrote in her decision: "The defendants' motion for summary judgment on injunctive and prospective declaratory relief is granted, and defendants' motion to dismiss on all other claims is granted."

"The opinion made it really clear that there was no basis for discrimination," said Todd Simmons, director of news and communications. "I think they wanted a ruling, in my opinion, that The Liberty needs to be treated exactly like the (Daily) Barometer."

The Daily Barometer is recognized as the campus student newspaper, Simmons said. The Barometer dates back to 1896, became a daily in 1922 and publishes five days a week during the academic year. It is supported by advertisers and student fees.

Published since 2002 by the OSU Students Alliance, The Liberty is a student-run paper that receives private funding through the Collegiate Network, a group of more than 100 college publications. It currently publishes monthly, distributing 1,500 copies, according to Whitney Hopple, editor.

In the suit, Rogers complained that the university had removed The Liberty's distribution bins, depriving it of rights to free speech, equal protection and due process.

In her decision, the judge noted that OSU officials changed the newspaper bin location policy and committed it to writing.

"This was very much an exercise in increased visibility," Simmons said, noting the suit originally generated coverage by national media, including Fox News. "The story line: a big, oppressive, liberal university squelches a small, defenseless, conservative magazine. We're glad this matter has been resolved."

"It's really time to move forward," said Hopple, a freshman in mechanical engineering. "As for me, I really (want) to put the lawsuit behind us."

Hopple said the newspaper will continue to publish and is still funded by Collegiate Network. It receives $375 every other month from CN and it costs $350 a month to operate. But the paper is changing editorial direction.

"It did begin as a right-wing political newspaper. It's not affiliated (now) with any political stance. We have broad interests. In all honesty, what we aim to do is provide an approach you may not find in the Barometer."

Copyright 2016 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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