July 14, 1999 : The following report is part of the final report issued last week by the grand jury. The full report, we are told, will be available on line soon. Here's the part that concerns The Eagle:
Mendocino-Lake Community College
The Mendocino-Lake Community College (College) is a community college serving Mendocino and Lake Counties.
Reason for Review
The Grand Jury received a complaint about possible violations of freedom of speech based on the status of the student newspaper, The Eagle, being forced to change from a volunteer student activity to one under the direct control of the English Department.
Method of Investigation
The Grand Jury interviewed two former faculty advisors of The Eagle, two members of the
College Board of Trustees (Board), the President of the College as well as the complainant. The
Grand Jury also interviewed a citizen interested in the operation of the College and several members of the staff at the College.
1. As mandated by California Education Code, Section 76120-76121, the Board adopted Board Policies 509 and 524, which established a comprehensive policy protecting First Amendment rights throughout the campus.
2. Students were involved in the publication of The Eagle on a voluntary basis, loosely guided by a faculty advisor(s). The College administration provided assistance to the project in the form of a $200.00 monthly stipend for the advisor(s), space for the work and use of College equipment. At some point The Eagle established a link to the College's web site with no objection from the administration.
3. In late 1997, The Eagle received anonymously and published a confidential memo- random concerning personnel issues involving administrative evaluations of a Dean of Instruction. The memorandum also included charges of improper hiring procedures for a specific administrative position and improper use of certain categorical funds.
4. Following the publication of the memorandum, the Administration took three actions regarding The Eagle:
First, the Administration cut the previously condoned link between The Eagle and the college web site on the stated grounds that such linkage, without official college approval, was unlawful. The "hot link" to The Eagle web site was removed within 36 hours of the posting of The Eagle Extra in October 1997.
Second, the Administration then terminated the existing arrangement of the publication of The Eagle. The exact date of termination is difficult to determine because there was no official notice.
Third, the Administration moved the publication of The Eagle into a newly created journalism class within the English Department. The newly hired instructor of the journalism class is also the advisor to the presently operating student newspaper.
5. The journalism teacher/faculty advisor has stated a commitment to ensuring that the publication meets high standards for quality journalism and to the free expression of ideas and non-interference in what appears in the newspaper.
1. The Grand Jury recommends vigilance on the part of students and faculty alike to ensure that the established policies of the College and the First Amendment rights receive strict adherence.
2. The Grand Jury recommends that the College Administration make no further changes in the status of The Eagle which might again give the impression of retaliatory restriction on free speech rights. The Eagle must be free to publish any information, with due regard for libel and obscenity rules, without fear of administrative interference or retaliation. The College Administration should reactivate a link between The Eagle and the College web site.
3. The Eagle should publish the official policies of the College in order that everyone can be familiar with the College's official, established policy regarding free inquiry and expression.
4. The Board should institute a colloquium including Board, Administration, faculty, and student body concerning freedom of expression on the College cam pus, including cyberspace issues.
An administrative official told some staff members that some information "should not be included" in a departmental status report to the Board. The accuracy, or inaccuracy, of the information was not given as the reason for eliminating parts of the report.
1 The Board must establish a "whistle-blower protection" policy in order to make certain that all points of view are available to members of the Board. A wide breadth of information about the College is necessary in order to enable the Trustees to make decisions based on a full awareness of all the conditions.
2. All points of view from various constituent groups must be readily available to the Board because the Board needs to have complete, unfiltered (and unfettered) information about all the conditions of the College.
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