The following editorial appeared in the Ukiah Daily Journal on August 10, 1997
By K.C. Meadows, Editor, The Ukiah Daily Journal
There are times when something goes so wrong, you can't possibly understand how it happened and yet you witnessed it.
That's how I felt watching the videotape of this weeks Mendocino College board of trustees meeting when the college administration, without blinking an eye, shut down the school newspaper. The Eagle.
It is my firm belief that they - and by "they" I mean college president Carl Ehmann and executive vice president Don Vasconcellos - squashed the Eagle simply because they don't like the flow of criticism coming from it by the Eagle's student editor Marya LeGrand, its faculty advisors King Collins and Dale Glaser and others, many of whom are rallying around Dean Susan Bell and her charges of administration wrong-doing.
The administration has glommed onto (actually I suspect they germinated the seed) a plan by English teacher Nancy McLelland to bring the Eagle into the English Department, thereby yanking it out of the hands of the dissidents and back onto safe ground where the only articles to see the light of day will be those about how wonderful the College; of Oz really is, accompanied by the sort of navel gazing parodies of modern literature which can be found in free magazines crowding bed and breakfasts throughout the county.
The administration's excuse for stifling the Eagle's voice is that McLelland's proposal is now on paper and needs to be studied. Mr. V. also said at the meeting that halting the production of the Eagle now is in that proposal.
I've looked at the proposal and I don't see any thing in it that suggests the Eagle should stop publishing until the shiny new Eagle is ready.
In fact, I don't see anything in the proposal that could be used right now to establish anything. The proposal is an incomplete attempt at organization weighted down with a sheaf of papers, a good third of which are copies of other colleges' course catalogues of journalism courses.
The actual "proposal" is only five pages long and consists of such phrases as "The Eagle Proposal: A Holistic Approach." It makes no reference to how a newspaper would be produced and published only about how a writing teacher can adequately produce journalists.
Interestingly enough the majority of the pages included in the "proposal" are given over to an analysis of how many students versus staff or others are writing in the Eagle.
This is where the administration shows its hand. It is the administration's contention that not enough students are writing for the Eagle and therefore the paper is no longer viable.
McLelland's numbers show a college paper where somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of the writing was done by students over the past four years. Then it shows only 33 percent of the 1997 Spring issue was written by students. Some people would say that part of the reason is that students were being discouraged from participating in the Eagle by members of the staff opposed to it.
The inadequacy of McLelland's proposal only makes it more incredible that the board of trustees allowed the administration to use it as an excuse to shut down the student newspaper.
I have nothing against Nancy McLelland and she may be a wonderful English teacher. And I'm not opposed to the college having a regular journalism course of study. I think it's a dandy idea.
What I object to is the board of trustees sitting in glassy-eyed submission as Mssrs. E. &V. muscle the Eagle out of existence. Mssrs. E.&V. shuffled papers and refused to answer direct questions with the excuse that "a meeting has been scheduled" on the matter. That meeting which took place Thursday - and another that will take place Monday does not include any member of the Eagle staff, either student or faculty.
The board of trustees should be ashamed of themselves. Time and again they were asked directly whether it wouldn't be better to allow the Eagle to publish its annual "back to school" issue while McLelland's proposal is fleshed out in meetings. Time and again they mumbled about "operational" decisions and how they couldn't interfere with "operational" decisions. Poppycock!
No matter what the adversity or controversy on campus, the school newspaper should continue to be published. It's a very bad precedent to set and a terrible message to send to students: "If we don't like what you're printing, we'll eliminate you."
Since the college administration has cut off funding to the newspaper, as it stands the Eagle will not publish again until the sanitized version with the administration's blessing is published, probably not until spring of 1998. It should be noted that this also means the Eagle will not be around to report on the Mendocino College board of trustees elections either.
But we will.
* * *
Thank you, K.C. We feel that your comments were a definite factor in the administration's change of position. -M.L.
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