September 28, 2005

COMMENTARY: Mano-a-Mano

Lately, I’ve been feeling under the boot of “the man” even though sometimes it’s a woman.

We had this giant meeting with the president of the college, the vice-president of student services, the director of student life, our regular two print journalism instructors, adviser and staff.

It was supposed to be our regular staff meeting where we discuss the status of our current issue, address problems, planning the next issue, etc. However with the smell of bacon in the room and not wanting to grant prior review, we decided to turn the floor over to our visitors.

The nodding heads stayed quiet except to say they support our efforts and hoped we’d make an effort to get both sides of the story. President Carlsen made thinly veiled references to my columns, the nodding heads supported. He asked me straight out if the administration ever censored our newspaper. I told him no one has ever prevented us from printing stories. However, people censor us by not consenting to interviews, not responding to phone calls and e-mail requests and generally dragging their feet until publication day comes and goes. He raised his hand and waved me off.

I asked him with the Hosty v. Carter controversy, if he would sign a document saying he would never censor our paper. He said that he’d sign it in a minute. Like he’d refuse to sign in front of administrators and student journalists – one of which recorded the meeting.

Our editor in chief also hammered the point that opinions are not news stories. He also told them they could write a letter to the editor or guest column citing their concerns.

The bravest of the head nodders and a man I have learned to respect sent us a column the next day.

September 1, 2005

COMMENTARY: Backdoor Censorship

With our first issue of the semester in the bins, our administrators decided to use policy as a means of backdoor censorship. However, they didn’t anticipate policy being used against them.
The Ledger published my column focusing on the college’s failure to implement a tuition payment plan they promised two years ago when they raised tuition. Josh wrote a column admonishing the college for not supporting an employee and her unborn baby after her husband, also an employee, was killed as he attempted to intervene in a robbery. I also wrote a news story chronicling how local residents fought against the college when the board of trustees tried to take acquire a park for campus expansion.
The prospect of two student journalists who freelance for The Kansas City Star covering issues on campus didn’t sit well with the college. They ‘dismissed’ me as senior editor the day the paper came out. They said I didn't have the credit hours the position required even though registration remained open for two more days. I also previously told them I had money issues but would make enrollment deadline.
With a tuition payment plan, I could have registered and paid my first installment before classes started.
Without knowing they fired me, I extended my credit limit on my VISA to pay for class. When I came to campus the next day, my adviser, under direction of her supervisor, informed me I was fired the day before and even if I enrolled in the needed class -- I was still fired. I had to deliver the news to Josh, the editor in chief and the man who hired me, since they neglected to include him in the decision.
I enrolled in my class, reapplied for my job and researched college policy. I found out college employees can request an exit interview -- so I did. I spent the day familiarizing myself with 'policy,' gathering college-produced recruitment materials featuring my image and compiling my published columns critical of the college. I presented the package at my exit interview and stated for the official college record that this act serves as backdoor censorship. I also said I have nothing to lose and would pursue the issue as far as I could.
The next day my adviser sent me an e-mail saying I was rehired and my pay would not be interrupted by the week I was off staff.
It’s not over. The college will try to find another way to silence me and intimidate the staff. This abuse of power shows me they’re scared.

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