The Los Angeles Times highlights FIRE’s and the Student Press Law Center’s (SPLC’s) opening shot in the battle for freedom of the press at Los Angeles City College (LACC), where the Collegian student newspaper has been repeatedly targeted for censorship and intimidated by administrators. The Times reports:
“No institution in SPLC’s recent memory has attempted censorship as persistently or with as many diverse methods as Los Angeles City College,” officials from the Student Press Law Center and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote in a recent letter to Mona Field, president of the Los Angeles Community College District’s board of trustees.
The letter alleges that college administrators have engaged in a “pattern of interference” with the work of the campus’ student newspaper, the Collegian, starting in August 2008. Among its concerns, the organizations wrote: College officials have made unacceptable demands of the paper’s staff, tried to influence its content and proposed moving its reporters under administrators’ supervision for “counseling” about their stories.
The two groups urged the trustees to take action to improve the climate for student journalists at the college and noted that the situation had also drawn the attention of state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). They said they joined Yee in urging the college’s president, Jamillah Moore, to comply with state laws protecting the students’ rights to free expression.
While LACC President Jamillah Moore did not comment for the article, what the Times has to say about the comments of another senior LACC administrator is illuminating:
Student Services Vice President Lawrence Bradford acknowledged the tensions between student journalists and administrators, but called it a distraction as the college copes with accreditation and financial problems.
Ah yes, that pesky free speech thing—no time for that in this time of crisis! At least, that seems to be the protocol when the going gets tough in the California Community Colleges system. (Remember also the lengths to which Southwestern College went to stifle dissent in the wake of announcing unpopular budget cuts.)
If Bradford really sees the Collegian dispute as a “distraction” from more pressing financial matters, maybe he could also point out to Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Trustees President Mona Field the surreal waste of taxpayer money that is LACCD’s fight to have its unconstitutional speech code upheld in court—where it has so far failed at every step of the process. Not to be deterred, LACCD has appealed their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As we’ve mentioned before, FIRE has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in response.
Continually funneling resources into defending a speech code put on trial after an intolerant LACC professor told a religious student to “Ask God what your grade is“? How’s that for distraction—especially for a school going through “financial problems”!
Thanks to the Los Angeles Times for drawing attention to LACC’s deplorable treatment of the Collegian, and for adding to the pressure for LACC to answer for its many transgressions.