LFTE: Why we’re celebrating Student Press Freedom Day

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(Graphic Illustration by Jake Dunaetz | The Collegian)

Serena Bettis, Content Managing Editor

Editor’s Note: All letters from the editor reflect the views of the editorial board only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian.

Today is a beautiful day because today is Student Press Freedom Day, when those of us at Rocky Mountain Student Media get to celebrate not just ourselves, our peers or the First Amendment but everyone before us who fought for our right to do what we do — bring you the news. 

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The Student Press Law Center is an independent nonprofit organization that advises student journalists on legal issues and defends the freedom of the press in educational settings, and they host Student Press Freedom Day every year during the Scholastic Journalism Week. 

This year, the day falls on an even more significant anniversary — the verdict of the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.

This case laid the foundation for free speech and press in schools. In brief, the case involved three students who were suspended for wearing black armbands to school as a silent protest to the Vietnam War. The majority opinion of the court was that because the students were in no way interfering with the purpose and functioning of the school, it was an unconstitutional restriction of speech to suspend them. 

Moreover, in the court’s majority opinion, Justice Abraham Fortas wrote, “Under our Constitution, free speech is not a right that is given only to be so circumscribed that it exists in principle but not in fact.” 

The ruling set the precedent that students do not lose their rights as citizens of the United States when they enter school and that an important aspect of the education environment is the freedom to express opinions and openly discuss issues important to them.

We place so much value on this because we’ve proven time and again that students and their voices create change. Colorado State University students have continuously advocated for change — on campus and on a national scale. 

In 1970, students protested racial discrimination at a CSU basketball game; since 2017, students have repeatedly demanded accountability from the University after an ongoing series of racist incidents on campus; in late 2020, a student came to The Collegian to share her story of sexual harassment by a professor in the hope that others like her would not feel so alone. 

Recently, The Collegian published a special edition surrounding the issue of freedom of speech, specifically as it relates to our college campus. While we joked that maybe we could have planned better and published it today, this serves as a good opportunity to reflect yet again on the First Amendment. We invite you to read those stories if you did not have a chance, comment on our website, interact with us on social media and send us letters to the editor to further engage the student voice. 

Our position and platform as an independent student media organization on a public university campus is a unique one. As an alternative-weekly print publication and a daily news website, we have the ability to bring the community longer, more in-depth stories while also keeping you up to date with the most pressing breaking news stories, sports coverage, local art and student opinions. With a section dedicated entirely to cannabis — a growing industry with a plethora of political, financial and social issues at hand — students have access to something not found in many student newspapers.

It is our mission to serve our community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and Fort Collins locals with stories that make them feel heard, help them learn something new or even just have some fun. This is what drives us; this is why we are here and today; this is why we celebrate Student Press Freedom Day.

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Katrina Leibee, editor in chief

Serena Bettis, content managing editor

Devin Cornelius, digital managing editor

Reach the editorial board at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.