Lawsuit prompted by student, on-campus independent publication ends with

$100K settlement, $1,000 paid to student

Oregon State University recently settled a $101,000 lawsuit pursued by an independent publication, a student alliance and a conservative legal firm.

The long-time case involved with the destruction of newspaper bins belonging to The Liberty, a former on-campus newspaper, concluded Wednesday with $1,000 rewarded to the last student editor and $100,000 to the Alliance Defending Freedom organization. The Arizona-based Christian nonprofit group specializes in cases involved with violation of civil liberties and religious freedoms.

Steve Clark, vice president of university relations and marketing at OSU, said administrators are just glad to see the case over and done with.

"It was never an issue of constitutional rights or free speech in our mind," Clark said.

According to Clark, the money paid to both the student and nonprofit come from the university's general fund, the compilation of dollars primarily generated through tuition and student fees.

The case began in 2009 when various bins belonging to The Liberty disappeared from campus. The overall actions were believed to be caused by individual maintenance employees who acted on their own accord to beautify the campus. The case itself was brought to the Supreme Court and then dismissed.

However, troubles escalated once again in October 2013 when it was announced that the case returned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

OSU President Ed Ray claimed he had no idea what the maintenance workers had done when William Rogers, then editor-in-chief of The Liberty, emailed him with complaints.

"Some people that I knew nothing about, geniuses, decided they didn't like these things cluttering doorways," Ray said. "So they took them off and threw them away, which was pretty incredibly mindless."

Ray contacted Mark McCambridge, former vice president of finance and administration, along with other members of university administration, to handle the matters.

In the midst of attempting to clean up the mess, Ray and others discovered there was no official policy for such an occurrence.

"Nobody had ever gone in direct competition with the Barometer before, so there was never a policy," Ray said.

As a result, OSU drafted new policies requiring that publications request bin locations and distribution points via registration through facilities services. In any event of a removal from staff members or employees, it was also ordered that all bins now be placed in a dry, secure area within the facilities services shops.

Meanwhile, Rogers and others under the name OSU Student Alliance readied a lawsuit against Ray and the university. Other targets on the initial dropped suit included McCambridge and facilities director Vincent Martorello.

"They just named who they thought were the appropriate people to name," Ray said.

Following the case's reappearance, Rogers and the Alliance Defending Freedom worked to file a stipulation in the appeals court last week. The case ended after nearly five years of its initial presentation.

"We think it's evident who benefitted from this given that the student received $1,000 and the attorney fees were $100,000," Clark said.

The Liberty itself no longer distributes papers across campus but was subject to various vandalisms and other bin disappearances dating back to 2005.

Sean Bassinger

Higher education reporter

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