Administration Takeover a Repeat

Former Eagle Editor talks about Eagle History

By R.Michael Johnson
a.k.a Uncle Bob

As you've discovered, freedom of speech seems to falter when it reaches the door of the college newspaper. The reasons for this are somewhat complicated. Colleges and universities have always been nervous about their student newspapers, and not without justification. Any publication that carries the name of an institution carries some heavy baggage. Disclaimers not withstanding, the paper is a direct reflection of the views and policies of that particular institution. One would think that the opinion/editorial page is neutral territory, where controversial or critical ideas might be expressed. Experience demonstrates that this is not always the case.
Indulge me for a moment as I add another brief chapter to the Eagle history as told by Uncle Bob. When we decided to establish the paper, we chose the extracurricular route for a couple of reasons. Essentially, speed and freedom. Events and situations dictated that we publish a paper quickly and with as little interference from administration as possible. We recruited a faculty advisor and established a "journalism club." Our volunteer staff enrolled in the local adult school printing class, which gave us access to composing and printing equipment. At the end of the academic year, we had a choice to make: Continue as before, or petition the administration to establish a journalism class. The debate between staff was lively. As a "journalism club," we had a degree of freedom, but we were also at a serious disadvantage.
Producing a quality publication takes time. Despite the gratification of our accomplishment, the task was very time consuming. Staff burnout was a serious problem. Therefore, we finally agreed (regrettably, in my view) to petition for a class. Our efforts had attracted some serious attention from the administration, and, with uncharacteristic speed, a class was formed and an instructor hired. Most of the original staff declined to enroll.
I reluctantly enrolled in the class, and my worst fears were quickly confirmed. I should note here that the instructor chosen for the journalism class was not our original advisor (full-time English instructor). Administration chose to hire a new part-time faculty member (who just happened to be the wife of a full-time instructor). In my opinion, her academic qualifications were dubious, and her practical knowledge minimal. I dropped the class before the second meeting.
I'm making a wild assumption here, but it seems that the paper is in a similar situation at the moment.
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