College Trustees Kill Campus Papers

An update to yesterday’s entry… In a 3-2 vote, the college trustees decided to eliminate the journalism programs for both Ventura College and Oxnard College for the upcoming school year. The two campus newspapers, the Ventura College Press and Campus Observer, will be closed. (This will be the first time VC hasn’t had a paper since 1925.) Finally, my mom will be laid off.

She e-mailed me at 2am this morning:

It’s over. They killed the program. It was one of the most gut-wrenching evenings — students speaking so passionately, I spoke with my students around me. The board members voted 2-3 to kill the program. My students sobbed their eyes out as they cut their program… Gary sobbing, me as well.

These people have no hearts. If you could have heard these people. We are going full on press — tomorrow a sit-in in the president’s office. I will be on AM 1520 live at 8 am with my student Karina Gonzales. I’m filing a lawsuit through the union; the kids are filing a first amendment violation lawsuit.

We are in the newsroom now — the kids are putting a paper out by morning. Should be interesting.

I worked at the VC Press for two semesters while I was there, and it laid the foundation for my passion for media and my future Communications degree at UC Berkeley. It gave me a voice, and it gave a voice to the students that worked with me. The shortsightedness of these people just kills me. The trustees would have been better off firing themselves and keeping the paper.

March 11, 2005: The LA Times published a new article about the student protests. Here’s a photo of the silent protest in the President’s office.


    What were some of the solutions to the school’s financial difficulties that the proponents of the journalism program offered?

    I worked at OC last summer and plan to work there again this summer. Will be interesting to see how this plays out – thanks for the info! Best wished to your mom…

    The shortsightedness of these people is scary – and in education too! Hope all goes OK for your mum Waxy.

    I attended Moorpark college just before the budgets started tightening. The VCCCD has made some drastic decisions in years past to cut expenses, but nothing as foolish as to eliminate a school newspaper. It’s quite clear that when a decision as myopic as this one as made, no integral programs remain sacred. I’m sorry that your mother had to lose her job over this, and I’m equally sorry that Western Ventura County Community Colleges no longer have an outlet for expression. Please keep us posted on how your mom is faring, Andy.

    I removed an off-topic comment about Schwartzenegger and the state government. Everyone agrees there’s a budget problem, but it really doesn’t explain why the program and newspapers were cut and why the entire thing was kept so secret. At any rate, please keep the political discussion to a bare minimum.

    Man, I’m sorry about this.

    Sure, budgets get tight and programs need to be cut. But consistently, municipal school boards and college trustees make the mistake of thinking that journalism, art and music programs are expendable sugary extras that students get to indulge in after completing proper academic work.

    Unlike rote “no child tests behind” systems, school boards have a hard time quantifying the benefits of creative programs. But art teachers, journalism professors, actors and bloggers understand those strong and sometimes elusive benefits: the experience of creating and sharing art or writing within a environment that allows constructive criticisim and positive feedback refines a student’s critical thinking and problem solving skills in a way no traditional study can. These programs create confidence within a community.

    School newspapers and art exhibits let students participate in a public conversation with peers, professors and parents about things they feel are important–and learning to have that conversation is an absolutely essential step on the road to becoming the kind of socially-conscious, civic-minded adult who will solve the problems of the future.

    Politicians rarely see that. Everyone loses.

    Fight the good fight, Andy. Please post if there are additional resources you need. You are what you fight for, and I look forward to hearing more.

    Respect for the arts programs are terrible. Most of the people administering the schools don’t believe in them and they get cut. Newspapers are notorious for being threatened and hacked at.

    Good luck in fighting it. But I don’t think that it will come to anything more. They are great at ignoring this. At least you’re being heard. Your Mom sounds like a great role model.

    Your mom needs to take her story to “The Doug McIntyre Morning Show” at KABC radio in L.A. You’ll get a top-notch interview with coverage and analysis that isn’t available at the local hometown station. It’s an important issue that affects students and taxpayers well beyond the borders of Ventura County. Good luck.

    Would the students setting up and distributing their own newspaper be considered a problem? (I guess the lack of financial resources would be an issue, but I’m sure a lot of people would be willing to lend support.)

    Failing that, they should just blog the whole thing — if *that* got shut down then there’s a real first amendment case to be fought.

    I wish your mum and the students the best of luck!

    That sucks. In general, I love school papers. If I’m ever in a random college town, I pick one up and read it for fun. I question the lawsuits, though. It’s not like they’re closing it down to keep you quiet. They’re closing it down because it’s an easy thing to cut, right? Perhaps the paper can continue as an independent weekly (ad-based), or publish to the web until they can get their funding back.

    Great weblog, btw – just started reading it a little while ago.

    I’m a former student of Toni when she taught high school journalism for the two years at SC, I’ve since gone on to my college and I write for the main newspaper as well as several online publications.

    Back in the day, Toni showed me the passion and intensity that I never knew was possible in journalism. It became a great love for me, and I don’t think I could be where I am now if it wasn’t for her and the training I received with her brilliantly conceived journalism program.

    If something like that were to happen here, there would be an outrage, and student walkouts and strikes would be rampant. I applaud the actions taken by Toni and her students now, and I hope that they continue their protests and this travesty can be averted.

    I’ve already contacted my news editor about covering this horrific decision by the VCCCD. I will do all I can to ensure that this is turned over.

    Back in High School, our school paper was shut down for a semester (over content critical of the Administration – not because of money) and as Mat suggests, we went on publishing on our own as an unofficial underground paper. Now, that will in no way replace the loss of an academic journalism Department, but there is a certain freedom when you are not school-sanctioned. I hope your Mom finds another gig. One of my finest teachers ever was that HS Journalism advisor.

    Eric failed to mention that he’s now a student at Stanford pursuing a degree in journalism.

    It ain’t over til’ it’s over. A colleague said, “They didn’t know who they were messing with when they cut your program, did they?”

    After constant hammering in the press, calls to the board and chancellor from the Student Press Law Center, the JACC and other organizations, and threats of legal action, the chancellor sent out this message to all faculty at staff yesterday evening at 5:30 p.m.:

    “Our Trustees feel it is important for our students to learn about, and have the opportunity to participate in, a free and Democratic public press. In spite of budget reductions, we hope to develop an approach to keep our student press alive across our three campuses. – Jim Meznek”

    I love to write and its a tragedy to think that schools such as these have decided to pull programs such as this from their activities. That’s really a shame. What happened to freedom of speech and expression?

    Meznek and his posse of administrators kick my son out of college for paying his fees late…while at the same time he let’s the so-called “poor’ kids in for free….the first thing dictators do is close down newspapers

Comments are closed.