• September 3, 2015

Southwestern College Halts Publication of Student Newspaper

Southwestern College, a two-year institution near San Diego, has temporarily halted the student newspaper from issuing a print edition, and student journalists allege it did so to prevent them from publishing articles before a heated election for the college's governing board. But the college denies any attempt at censorship and says the holdup is an administrative issue unrelated to politics.

The paper, The Southwestern College Sun, won several national awards last year from the Society of Professional Journalists for stories that were critical of the college's president and board members. One board member, Jean Roesch, sharply criticized the paper last month and asked for more positive coverage.

Staff members said on Thursday that college officials had barred them from publishing a paper before three members of the board face re-election on November 2. "We've been told we can't publish before the election," said Max Branscomb, the paper's faculty adviser. "It's outrageous, it's inexcusable, and it's flimsy."

Southwestern has suffered from a revolving leadership and nasty battles between administrators, faculty members, and students. Last year, the college suspended four faculty members who participated in a campus protest against cuts to course offerings. In February, Southwestern's accreditor put the college on probation, citing a "culture of fear and intimidation," among other factors.

A spokesman for the college, Chris Bender, said the allegations of censorship were "flat inaccurate." The college stopped publication of the The Sun because officials discovered this summer that the paper is in violation of a campus purchasing policy requiring administrative approval for printing costs, he said.

Once the newspaper obtains proper approval for its printing costs, the paper can resume printed publication, he said. Until then, the newspaper is free to publish its stories online, he said.

"It's not an issue of free speech or freedom of the press," Mr. Bender said. "It's a purchasing problem."


1. brandonms - September 17, 2010 at 08:20 am

This sounds like a classic case of censorship to me. I used to advise student newspapers. Many college administrators feel the First Amendment doesn't apply to student journalism, but, of course, it does.

2. bbaylis - September 17, 2010 at 09:55 am

The first amendment says that people have the right to express their feelings without interference from the federal government. the Supreme Court has extended this to state governments In the case of privately owned publication outlets, the publisher/owner has control over what is said. Every newpaper, radio or TV station must adhere to the publical and social dictates of its owner/publisher. Watching Fox NEWS, CNN, NBC and ABC, I sometime wonder if they're covering the same story. I personally know two editors of community newspapers that quit or were fired over a disagreement with the publisher over stories that were published or not published. Yes I would agree that the administration is "taking an easy way out" and and claiming lack of adherence to University policies to prevent hard copy paper publishing of the paper. I see the students having three choices: None of which are desireable. The first is to publish the paper on line. I didn't see the article indicate that they would be prevented from publishing their stories that way. (I see more and more publications going this way to save money.) The second approach would be to go independent from the University and find their own funds to publish. This would not be easy to do in these economic times. A number of community newspapers are close to failing because they can't get enough paid scubsriptions or advertisements to keep going. THe third way would e to go to court and get a ruling that says the University is a direct arm of the state which would give the state direct control of all of its budget, which from looking at how states do with the budgets they control, would be a colossal disaster for the whole university.

3. deanmike - September 17, 2010 at 10:27 am

Southwestern should take a good hard look at how this despicable action is playing out in the world of academe. Shameful!

4. greeneyeshade - September 17, 2010 at 01:07 pm

How long can it possibly take to get administrative purchasing approvals in place? I'll bet approvals to refurbish the president's office could be walked through the procuremnt approval process at Southwest in less than a day.

Sidebar: Not only is there an atmosphere of fear and intimidation at this school, their ability to handle PR is seriously deficient.

5. drj50 - September 17, 2010 at 01:39 pm

That the paper may continue to publish online at least minimizes the censorship issue. I suspect that the controversy may actually stimulate readership, especially off-campus. If the intent is to muzzle viewpoints, why allow continued online publication?

6. freespeech92104 - September 17, 2010 at 02:18 pm

drj50 - Because they haven't figured out a flimsy excuse to stop the online publication. The upper administration has been trying to shut down the Sun for 2 years - it took them this long to think of the 'administrative purchasing policy' excuse. We're not talking rocket scientists here. That's part of the problem - new leadership is the only way to fix it.

7. hawkeyecc - September 17, 2010 at 02:57 pm

I think the key here is the accreditation issue and the the "atmosphere of fear and intimidation". This administration is seriously out of touch with both the students and the faculty. And a board that supports this is also out of touch. The recourse is to get a new board, but that is why they have muffled the paper. If they (the admin and board) value their accreditation, they should think about their actions.
Keep on fighting the good fight at Southwestern and publish online until your purchasing issue is resolved.

8. wendt - September 17, 2010 at 04:35 pm

Anyone want to try and find a bookie to take a bet against the "purchasing issue" mysteriously be resolved on November 3rd?

9. prof_truthteller - September 18, 2010 at 06:41 pm

Here is the link to The Sun online: http://www.southwesterncollegesun.com/

If you search any news database, including this one, you will find that this college has had chronic problems with repression of free speech and academic freedom of both the students and faculty. It's a travesty that we allow such corruption in american institutions of public education. They deserve to get wacked by accreditation.

10. fltnsplr - September 18, 2010 at 08:17 pm

This is pure propaganda from the spinmeister's office at Southwestern College. PR lackey Chris Bender dutifully follows orders from his superiors and spreads misinformation so thick you'd need a cutting torch to get through it before the end of the day. Then again, for $95,000 a year, who wouldn't be tempted to increase their income in these perilous times? Nice work if you can get it...

Sadly, the administration and the governing board (with one exception, Nick Aguilar) have chosen to view the school as their personal money-making machine, using their positions to mismanage taxpayers' dollars for their benefit and for the enrichment of their cronies in the construction industry. Yolanda Salcido, board president, and Terri Valladolid, three-term incumbent, are facing the fight of their political careers when their terms expire in November and will be opposing a number of legitimate candidates, including Norma Hernandez, previous president of the college; Tim Nader, former two-term mayor of Chula Vista; and Jesseca Saenz-Gonzalez, executive director and founder of the San Diego Learning Center.

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