A frivolous threat of a lawsuit, then a serious threat of defunding: Student journalists at Tarleton State University are under attack

Lindsie Rank
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: When Sierra Dyson, editor of the editorially independent student newspaper Texan News Service, received a demand letter signed by a New York attorney and threatening a lawsuit, she probably didn’t imagine things would get worse. But they did. Dyson was confident the litigation threat was frivolous, since it concerned articles that had been written some three years ago. And she was right. The defamation claims were not only well outside the statute of limitations, but were also without merit; even if the letter had been timely, the TNS articles weren’t defamatory.

But when Tarleton administrators learned of the threat, they ensured that its unfounded demands would be followed. Administrators gave Dyson a choice: Comply with the demand letter or the student paper would lose its university funding.