The following letter was received on November 4, 1999 via e-mail from the author, Michael Mishler, with the request to post it on the Eagle Forum. According to Mishler, the letter was also submitted to Deborah Wallace, the editor of the Eagle.

An Open Letter to the Mendocino College Community

By Michael Mishler

I have been informed that some members of the Mendocino College student newspaper's staff have taken exception to identifying me as an Eagle staff member on anything I have posted or will post on the Mendocino College Eagle Forum website,

As a courtesy, and in recognition of my colleagues' sensitivities, I requested the webmasters to remove any Eagle­related title, such as "Eagle reporter" or "staff writer, The Eagle," from my signatures and/or bylines.

I have passed on to the webmasters the further demand of my erstwhile colleagues that any links not mention any affiliation with The Eagle.

This demand seems to me excessive, irrational, petty and possibly vindictive.

For the record, the Mendocino College Eagle Forum has a disclaimer to the effect that the opinions expressed are those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of anyone else, including, explicitly, Mendocino College.

Also, for the record, everything I have posted on this site represents my opinions. Nothing I have written in any way reflects the views of anyone else on the staff of The Eagle.

That is exactly the problem.

I originally wrote that there is no evidence of "any serious intention of producing an Eagle website." I continue to believe that, as well as my assertion that "the by far best way to set [a website] up is with its own server and a link to the college from the site and hopefully vice versa."

"The Eagle office is always closed except during what might be called production week," I wrote. "This lack of access to the paper sends two messages: first, 'we don't trust you;' and second, 'we don't need you.'"

There has been a deafening silence from anyone at the Mendocino College student newspaper in response to the issue of accessibility. When members of the public find a locked door at the newspaper office and no posted office hours, is it any wonder that one or two of them might conclude that the paper is not interested in their concerns?

This question, I believe, has direct first amendment implications.

What do you, the readers of this newspaper, think?

I have been treating the existing Mendocino College Eagle Forum website as better than no Eagle website, which is the current alternative. I intend to continue to do so. This is what a newspaper, not to mention a college, should be doing in 1999: providing an open free speech forum on the web for discussion of issues of common concern. In the absence of such a website, I resorted to the only one available and accessible to anyone who has anything to say.

Instead of addressing the very real concerns I introduced, members of the Mendocino College student newspaper's staff have questioned the legality of the site or the right of the webmasters to use the name "Eagle." Apparently, this question has expanded to address my right to call myself a staff writer for The Eagle, which I am.

The real issue is what I wrote. Before I wrote an article in the October 1999 issue of the Mendocino College student newspaper, about my observations at a CalSACC conference in Los Angeles, and before my posts on The Eagle Forum were read, I was well regarded, so much so that I was rewarded with a bed and breakfast review, which included a complimentary night at the inn in question. My article on the b-and-b, Fensalden Inn, is in the October issue of the Mendocino College student newspaper as well.

Since then, I have been removed from an important story, the Grand Jury report to the community on threats to free speech at Mendocino College. Apparently, the editor of the Mendocino College student newspaper believes that I disagree with her regarding the merits of the Grand Jury's report, and that this is sufficient grounds for removing me from the story.

Meanwhile, issues of real import languish. Recently, a benefit party for Leonard Peltier took place in San Francisco. There are some very real parallels between the Bear Lincoln case here in Mendocino County and the Leonard Peltier case. Lincoln spoke at the benefit, by the way, as did his attorney, Tony Serra, who is also involved with Peltier's legal team. Interestingly, the animal spirit identified with Peltier in his portraits is the eagle! Visit the website of the Leonard Peltier Legal Defense Fund:

When I told the Mendocino College student newspaper editor that I could write a story on the Peltier benefit party, since I was planning to attend, she told me that issues around Leonard Peltier and his imprisonment "are of no concern to the students of Mendocino College."

It appears that: (a) blatant and unapologetic censorship is being exercised by the Mendocino College student newspaper editor; and/or (b) personal issues are affecting her judgment.

Therefore, I see no alternative to having my name removed from the staff box of the Mendocino College student newspaper. Then, I can be correctly identified as a former staff member of the Mendocino College student newspaper, both on the Mendocino College Eagle Forum website and in the pages of the Mendocino College Eagle student newspaper.

What do you, the readers of this newspaper think?

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Michael Mishler,
Staff writer, The Eagle

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