The presses have stopped for Southwestern College‘s student newspaper. Officials at the community college near San Diego blocked the Sun’s first issue indefinitely on the grounds that the printers were not approved by the college’s governing board. The contracting rule hadn’t been enforced for decades, said faculty adviser Max Brascomb, who charged the administration wants to silence the newspaper.
“In six weeks the most controversial governing board election in the 50-year history of the college will take place and Southwestern College Sun students are writing articles about some issues that are uncomfortable for the incumbent board members,” Branscomb said. “So now, conveniently, comes a long-dormant policy that a beleaguered vice president uses to try to prevent the student newspaper from being published before the election.”
Journalism students will try to publish without college funding.
The newspaper is under attack because it’s run critical editorials about the college’s president, said Diana Inocencio, editor-in-chief.
The newly enforced policy gives a publication oversight board the power to approve and remove the newspaper’s editor-in-chief. “The board would include college administrators, student government representatives and other parties covered by The Sun,” reports the newspaper.
“If the government that we cover has power to hire and fire our editor-in-chief, that would drastically impact how critical we can be of them,” said Amber Sykes, a staffer. “Imagine if the White House could fire the editor-in-chief of the Washington Post.”
Last year SWC was named one of the nation’s 10 worst violators of the First Amendment by The Jefferson Center. The award came after four professors were temporarily barred from campus and investigated after participating in a student rally against class cuts that left the college’s free speech zone.
The student newspaper should be more positive, said trustee Jean Roesch in a Sun interview. “We don’t need to continue with this negative rudeness. I’ve never been treated like this. They think they can say anything they want.” Editors and staff “have a responsibility to put the college first,” Roesch said.
The Sun’s upcoming issue was slated to include articles about governing board candidates, “the ongoing battle over whether the college will keep its state accreditation, and a summer fundraiser held by the college vice president in which he raised money from companies whose contracts he oversees,” reports Voice of San Diego.
“It seems very convenient. They’re pulling this ancient policy out of nowhere,” said Lyndsay Winkley, a student writer for the Sun.
No kidding. If the administration really cared about how the paper contracts for printing, it would let the first edition go to press and resolve the problem later. And letting the administration and student government hire and fire the newspaper editor is absurd. If the Sun is turned into a “positive” and polite publication that can’t say what it wants, the college might just as well end the journalism program.