June 16, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Board of Trustees Censors Student Newspaper

Johnson County Community College
Friday, June 16, 2006


OVERLAND PARK – As student journalists at The Campus Ledger we were disappointed to learn last night that the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees voted 1-5 to disallow us from publishing a summer edition of the paper that in April was the first to break the story leading to the retirement of former president Charles Carlsen.

As student journalists at Johnson County Community College we have been taught both the power of the press and the responsibility necessary to exercise that power in following a story wherever it leads and to publish without fear or favor.

Last night, the Board of Trustees, with the exception of Jon Stewart, muzzled the watchdog press and at the same time shot the messenger -- before the details of an independent investigation into the allegations leveled at the former president emerge later this summer.

To justify denying our summer staff request, trustee Elaine Perilla, who has been acting as the de facto college president until Larry Tyree takes the interim helm July 5, had Gerald Baird, vice president of Administrative Affairs, create budget numbers one day before the trustees meeting to make it appear as if summer operations would cause The Ledger to spend money not in its budget.

That is simply not true. In fact, in the past six years, The Ledger has contributed money back to the student general fund at the end of the year and this is in addition to the revenue generated by sales of advertising.

The only conclusion we can draw is that the college, under Elaine Perilla’s leadership, has decided to punish staff at The Ledger for practicing the hallmark traits of a free press taught at the award-winning college Charles Carlsen played a major role in creating. It is our belief that the 1-5 vote barring us from publishing is based on misinformation and is a concerted effort to stifle the truth.

Why is it, we ask, can an estimated 600 temporary employees can be hired without discussion, as is the ordinary course of business at the college, and a handful of student journalists can have their budget request held up to such scrutiny? And, then be denied use of student activity funds already set aside for their use?

Suddenly we are being charged rent for our office space and having that held against us when that never before has been the policy of the college. I have not heard of the Student Senate being charged rent for the use of their office space or any other student activity on campus. Why The Ledger and why right now?

We call on the Board of Trustees to reconsider its vote in a special session. We ask that the board base a new vote on our true budget. Any other action continues the recent tradition of conducting the public's business outside the public’s view.