Student newspaper shut down

    Kevin Reynolds / Roundup

    The administration at Southwestern Community College (SWC) in Chula Vista, Calif. delivered a cease-and-desist order to the campus newspaper,  “The Sun” on Sept. 14 preventing them from printing their first issue according to the Sun’s staff.

    Administration issued the cease-and-desist order due to a policy that has not been enforced in 15 years. The forgotten policy was found during an annual financial review this summer according to Chris Bender, chief of communications.

    Policy 6063 was created in July 1990 and forces the paper to answer a student publication board that consists of seven members. The board can challenge the papers advisors direction and issue an advisory opinion to the newspaper at anytime.

    The policy also requires that any candidate chosen by the Sun’s staff to become editor-in-chief must get unanimous approval from the board before taking on the task. Also with a unanimous vote the board can fire the editor-in-chief at any time.

    “It wouldn’t be a newspaper at that point.” said Amber Sykes staff writer for the Sun. “If the government that we cover has the power to fire our editor-in-chief, that would drastically impact how critical we can be of them. It would be like the White house being able to fire the editor-in-chief of the Washington Post.”

    In an unsigned article posted on the Sun’s website President of SWC Raj K. Chopra is accused of “overtly attacking” the paper several times in the last year and trying to “manage the media.”

    In February SWC’s accreditor put the college on probation citing a “culture of fear and intimidation” referring to three teachers that were suspended after participating in a peaceful protest about class cuts.

    “The papers publication was stopped because it was in violation of a campus purchasing policy requiring administration approval for printing cost,” said Bender.

    Chopra and other members of the administration were unavailable for comment.

    “This policy has been reinstated to assure that we are getting the best deal before spending the taxpayer’s dollars,” said Bender.

    However the staff at SWC’s Sun has a different opinion about the reason for this sudden road block.

    The reporters at The Sun have recently been investigating the “shadowy” pasts of certain board members that are coming up for re-election in November.

    The Sun’s debut issue for the semester was slated to include articles about the candidates, and a fundraiser led by the Nicholas Alioto, vice president of SWC who raised money from companies who’s contracts he oversees.

    “The Administration tells us that we can’t print until a board approves our printer,” Said Diana Inocencio editor-in-chief of the Sun. “Then they tell us that they won’t be able to set a board meeting until mid November, after the elections are over.”

    The Sun was unable to print the first issue of their paper due to lack of funding, but took it upon themselves to find funding for the second issue.

    “I can’t say that I know why this is happening,” said Inocencio. “But it does seem like something fishy is going on.”

    The Emmy Award winning creator of the hit series “Babylon 5” and a former SWC student J. Michael Straczynski donated $3,500 to the student paper.

    Thanks to the generous donation the Sun was able to release the second issue (or rather the first) on Sept. 30. The issue was unedited by the administration because it was released without district funds said Sean Campbell, senior staff writer.

    “Until an agreement is reached we will find a way to raise the money on our own.” said Lyndsay Winkley Senior Staff writer.

    It has been argued by some that this policy raises First Amendment issues. Stopping students from having their voices heard.

    “It’s not an issue of free speech or freedom of the press,” said Bender “It’s a purchasing issue.”

    According to Peter Scheer the executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition this is not really a first amendment issue since the paper can still publish anything on their website.

    “The Sun has to comply with the district printing policy since the paper uses taxpayer dollars.” said Scheer.

    In a meeting held on Oct. 1 the administration met with members of the Sun’s staff to discuss funding, amending the policy, as well as whether or not the web link to the Sun’s website, on the SWC website would remain after the site is updated in December according Campbell.

     

    “We haven’t had the website for very long and are still learning how to use it to full advantage” said Max Branscomb, chief advisor of the Sun. “And I still believe that the heart and soul of the Sun is the printed paper.”

    Bender argues that the policy just makes it so they must follow the same business practices every other student organization must follow.

     

    “We are still under negotiations to rewrite the policy,” said Pasano “the terms are unacceptable.”

    On Oct. 8 the Sun was informed that the web link would remain on the SWC website after the December upgrade, but that the permanency of it would depend on a five month statistical analysis to determine how frequently the link is used.

    “We have received huge support from the teaching staff,” said Inocencio. “We are working hard to revise this policy.”

    “We have been successful in getting money for printing of the next issue,” said Bender. “It’s just a shame that this internal funding issue has blown to such proportions.”

     

    Publication Board:

    Student Publication Board: 7 members

    One administrator selected by the superintendent; two faculty members selected by the Academic Senate; two students selected by the student government; and two students from the student newspaper.

    Links:

    http://www.southwesterncollegesun.com