Institutes of higher education should support First Amendment rights


A college campus is designed to be a forum for free thinking and expression.

It should be a place where students and faculty alike can pursue thoughts and actions without fear of repercussion or repression.

It should be a place where the educational process is created by the free flow of ideas so everyone gets out what they put into it.

And above all, the First Amendment should be welcomed with open arms.

However, this might not be the case because many people don’t fully understand the First Amendment.

Students might not realize it, but the First Amendment influences everyday life and helps create what is the atmosphere of higher education.

Without it, there wouldn’t be posters hanging in around campus advertising and promoting various groups and events.

There wouldn’t be opportunities for students to speak-out for or against a cause or entity.

The freedom of expression could be decimated if it were not for the First Amendment.

Student journalists should recognize this as much as, if not more than, other students. On a daily basis such students are confronted with the First Amendment’s right to a free press.

At times such rights can come into question because of how different student newspapers are funded.

Some publications receive all their funding from the school and are a classroom-based paper. Others are classroom-based but also sell advertising.

Some, such as The Sunflower News, are independent of any classroom but receive some funding from the school to combine with revenue from sales. Still others fund themselves entirely through advertising sales.

Because of these various funding standards, some student newspapers encounter problems from school officials and funding.

In some cases this flirts with violations of the First Amendment’s right to a free press, just as the school banning certain apparel or music could violate the right of free speech for all other students.

What can sometimes happen is that if the student newspaper receives funding from the university in any form, the people holding the purse strings tend to believe they can influence what is reported in the newspaper.

This is patently wrong.

Doing so would be a violation of the First Amendment because each newspaper has the right to decide what goes into its pages.

No one on the outside can dictate what the newspaper does, especially if the newspaper in question is designated as an independent voice of the university.

It is the mission of The Sunflower News to cover the campus of Wichita State to its best ability.

At times, however, staffing issues and a production cycle that has never been implemented — Monday, Wednesday and Thursday — hinder attainment of this goal.

The newspaper’s staff works hard to cover all corners of the campus, but these issues do cause the reporting process to be handled uniquely.

The point of a student newspaper is to practice and learn journalism. Victories and mistakes both create part of the learning curve.

Abridging the First Amendment rights of a student newspaper via threats and bullying tactics prevents those students from learning, which tears at the fabric of what a learning instution should be all about.

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