Oregon State University has paid $1,000 plus $100,000 in legal fees to a former student to settle a lawsuit over the confiscation of distribution boxes for a conservative-leaning student newspaper.
Supporters of the newspaper called The Liberty sued the school in 2009, alleging the university president and other school officials granted the official campus newspaper numerous bins while restricting The Liberty's distribution.
The suit alleged that school officials confiscated distribution bins for The Liberty and tossed them onto a trash heap. The bins, which contained copies of the paper, were allegedly removed without notice and thrown next to a dumpster.
Lower-ranking campus officials said they removed The Liberty's boxes to beautify the campus, but distribution bins for the campus paper were reportedly left untouched. Top school officials said they had not ordered the destruction.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had revived the lawsuit after a U.S. District Court judge dismissed it. The appeals court ruled that it had “little trouble finding constitutional violations” and that the university's policy that led to the alleged trashing "materialized like a bolt out of the blue."
The Oregonian reported that the university did not acknowledge wrongdoing but agreed to the six-figure payout to William Rogers to end the lawsuit, which was dismissed Wednesday.
Months after the lawsuit was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal firm specializing in religious liberty cases, the university changed its policies to allow approved student groups that publish newspapers to distribute them on campus.
“We hope this case will encourage public officials everywhere to respect the freedom of students to engage in the marketplace of ideas that a public university is supposed to be,” David Hacker, an attorney with the Arizona-based group said in a statement. “The university has done the right thing, not only through changing their unconstitutional policy, but also by compensating the students for the violation of their First Amendment freedoms.”
Rogers was the paper's executive editor at the time. The Oregonian reported that The Liberty ceased operations at Oregon State after 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.