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OSU Student Alliance v. Ray

From December 2008 to April 2014
Oregon State University (Public college or university)
Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • William Rogers
    Student
    Other

    William Rogers was managing-editor of the conservative weekly the Liberty.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Recognized student group event
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
  • Incident Status:
    Settled
  • No protest Occured
  • Did not involve Speech Codes

Summary

OSU Student Alliance was a student group at Oregon State University. The group published a newspaper called the Liberty, an independent, weekly paper that was billed as a conservative alternative to the University’s student-funded paper, The Daily Barometer. In order to maintain its independence, the Liberty was funded entirely by donations and advertising revenue. In 2002, the OSU Student Alliance began to place news bins on campus in order to distribute the Liberty. The group had permission from the University’s Facility Services department to place the bins in well-traveled areas, including the dining hall and the Student Union. In 2005, the group placed eight additional bins at locations around campus that already had bins that held The Daily Barometer.

During winter break in 2008, all of the bins disappeared. The OSU Student Alliance contacted the University’s police, who determined that the University’s Facilities Department had confiscated the bins. The group was eventually able to recover the bins from a storage yard where they had been placed, but one of the bins was cracked. When the group contacted the Facilities Department, a customer service manager informed them that the department had removed the bins in order to comply with a policy that was enacted in 2006 that prohibited news bins from being placed outside of two designated areas. William Rogers, the managing-editor of the Liberty, emailed the University’s President, Ed Ray, to complain about the removal of the bins. Ray forwarded his email to several other administrators. Several weeks later, Vincent Matorello, the Director of Facilities Services, called Rogers to explain that his department applied the University’s policy against the Liberty in order to keep the campus clean by regulating “off-campus” publications. While Rogers argued that the Liberty was run and staffed by students and thus was not an “off-campus” publication, Matorello denied the group permission to place the bins around the campus again. When Rogers asked Matorello to provide him with a written version of the University’s policy, he received an email from Cahles Fletcher, the University’s Associate General Counsel, who informed him that the policy was unwritten. He further stated that the University had the right to regulate the Liberty in a different way than it regulated The Daily Barometer, stating “The Daily Barometer was established over 100 years ago as the OSU student newspaper.

On September 29, 2009, the OSU Student Alliance filed a § 1983 action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon against various University officials alleging that the University’s policy violated its students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Before the case was heard in the district court, the University amended its policy. The new policy did not distinguish between on and off-campus publications and allowed any group to place a newspaper bin on campus provided that they complied with certain requirements. On February 22, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon granted the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, finding that the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief were moot because of the revised policy, and that the Complaint failed to state that the individual defendants had any part in confiscating the news bins. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision of the district court, finding that the policy violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments and that the individual defendants had injured the OSU Student Alliance by enforcing the policy against the group. The case was settled on April 3, 2014, after the University agreed to pay $101,000 to Rogers and his attorneys.