Last month, Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) administrators decided it would be a good idea to shut down the CNM Chronicle, a campus newspaper, after it published a sex-themed issue. Their reasoning? Administrators claim they were concerned about the potential legal repercussions stemming from the fact that a minor had been interviewed for the paper, even though the paper had obtained permission from the minor’s parents before publishing her commentary.
FIRE and many others are a bit skeptical of this justification, to say the least. We sent CNM a letter on March 27, explaining why CNM was wrong for removing the issue and shutting down the newspaper. A few hours later, the newspaper was put back on the shelves, but little else has been said by the administration on the matter since.
This result isn’t good enough for many faculty at CNM. Today, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 22 CNM faculty rightfully question the administration’s motives for reinstating the CNM Chronicle and ask that CNM affirm its commitment to the First Amendment:
Some of us believe that the only reason the paper was reinstated was to avoid further embarrassment for the college. President Winograd’s unwillingness to acknowledge that the college did anything wrong in the first place has only reinforced that conviction. Nor has anyone in the administration or on the Governing Board said anything to reaffirm the centrality of First Amendment rights to the mission and operations of the college.
What kind of message has been sent to the college’s students, faculty, and staff? Had there been no public uproar, would the newspaper still be mothballed? If the administration does not believe it erred, will it try again? Will it seek quieter, less visible ways in which to prevent The CNM Chronicle from covering stories on, say, strained relations with faculty, which the administration would like to shield from public scrutiny? And what kind of accountability, what level of responsibility, is the college demonstrating to the community? Does the administration assume that employees and students will eventually forget about this seamy episode?
Head over to The Chronicle of Higher Education to see the rest of their great letter. We here at FIRE hope that CNM administrators take note of their faculty’s concerns.