College fires adviser for allowing student paper to run anonymous letter

ILLINOIS — The staff of the student-run newspaper atChicago’s Columbia College is upset with what members describeas a rash decision on the part of the administration to removethe paper’s faculty adviser just weeks before the end of the academicyear.

With only two issues of the newspaper remaining, Chronicleadviser Jim Sulski, who had held his position at the paper fornearly six years, received a phone call from a college administratorinforming him that he was being removed from his adviser post,effective immediately.

Administrators told Sulski he was being removed because heallowed the paper’s editors to run an anonymous May 14 letterto the editor, which leveled numerous insults and accusationsat Zafra Lerman, director of the college’s Institute for ScienceEducation and Science Communication.

Sulski will remain a tenure-track faculty member of the school’sjournalism department.

But former Chronicle managing editor Ryan Adair, whowill become the paper’s editor in the fall, said administratorstook aim at the wrong target when they relieved Sulski of hisadviser duties.

"Really the newspaper is a learning environment for us,and we did make a mistake by running the letter," he said."However, the backlash was toward [Sulski] and not us –and it should have been toward us."

Sulski said he merely served as a resource for students anddid not believe it was his job to screen the newspaper’s editorialcontent.

Sal Barry, who worked as the paper’s webmaster during the mostrecent academic year, also said he was disappointed with the administration’sdecision to remove Sulski. Barry, who described Sulski as mentorwho encouraged him to pursue writing in addition to Web publishing,cited numerous awards the paper won under Sulski’s direction.

Barry said he ignored the administration’s order to removethe anonymous letter from The Chronicle’s Web site, choosinginstead to leave the letter online but change its text color towhite so it can only be viewed by highlighting the text.

The letter was still posted in its white-text form on TheChronicle Web site as of June 13.

But Bert Gall, Columbia College’s executive vice president,said the decision to remove Sulski was based on more than justthe paper’s decision to run the letter.

Gall said nearly half of the paper’s staff quit prior to theletter incident, with some claiming that Sulski engaged in favoritismamong the newspapers staff. Gall added that running the letteranonymously violated not only the newspaper’s policy about runningletters to the editor but "standard journalistic practicepolicy" as well.

Chris Richert, advertising and business manager for TheChronicle, said he hoped administrators would decide to reinstateSulski in the fall. Richert said another possibility would beto draw a new adviser from the faculty but added that many facultymembers were reluctant to take on the job after seeing what happenedto Sulski.

"All these other faculty members don’t even want to touchthis place with a 10-foot pole," Richert said.

Adair said he was uncertain who — if anyone — would fillthe vacant adviser post when the paper resumes publication inthe fall.

But Adair said he would refuse to let the complications ofthe past several months diminish the paper’s future work.

"We’ve never missed a deadline," Adair said. "Andwe won’t miss a deadline, regardless of whether we have a facultyadviser."

The text of the anonymous letter published in The Chronicle is available at: of June 14, the text was also available on The Chronicle’s Web site ( highlighting the blank space at the top of the page.