MARYLAND — Five students at a small, private culinary school in Baltimore recently found themselves in hot water with school administrators after they published an editorial criticizing one of the school’s recruitment fliers in the student newsletter.
The flier — aimed at attracting students to summer classes at Baltimore International College — features a bikini-clad woman holding a plate of piping-hot ‘buns’ and encourages students to ‘Bake your buns at BIC.’
The student newsletter published an editorial describing the recruitment flier as ‘tawdry, despicable and loathsome.’
The editorial criticized the administration for allowing the advertisement to be published, claiming it negatively represents female students and casts the college in a poor light. The editorial also demanded an apology from the administration and called for a ‘student body assembly’ on the issue.
‘What kind of message are you sending, Dr. Chylinski?’ the editorial demanded of the college’s president, Roger Chylinski.
The editorial appeared in the second issue of Toques and Ties, Baltimore International College’s student newsletter. Toques and Ties — the name refers to the traditional chef’s hat and tie — debuted in late March as a university-sponsored student newsletter.
After the student editors attended a journalism conference at the University of Maryland in the spring, staff members decided they wanted the newsletter to be free from administrative review. The issue that contained the editorial was the first produced without university funding or oversight and was distributed on May 14.
But in an incident that raises questions about whether student newspapers should be allowed to retain their names when they become independent from a university, administrators ordered the students not to use the name Toques and Ties on the second issue because it had not received prior administrative approval. The second issue had already gone to print, however, under the name Toques and Ties.
Baltimore’s City Paper reported May 30 that the five student editors, all of whom also are members of the student government, subsequently were reprimanded by administrators for using the name Toques and Ties in an independent publication without the administration’s consent. Carol Wohlleben, the school’s dean of student activities, reportedly sent letters to the students informing them that the student government association would be dismantled.
The students, referred to on campus as the ‘Gang of Five,’ also were called in for a judicial hearing on May 22 where College Provost David Goodwin apologized for the recruitment flier. Goodwin also told the students they were free to produce an independent newsletter and stated that a form of student government would begin again in the fall.
However, each of the students was ordered to write a five-page paper on ‘positive personnel strategies,’ and the students were forbidden from releasing future issues of the independent newsletter under the name Toques and Ties.
After the story ran in the City Paper, administrators sent Avis Smith, one of the student editors, a letter informing her that she had been placed on probation until the end of the fall semester for presenting herself as a representative of the college and ‘making statements, without documentation, solely based on conjecture and hearsay.’
The letter did not elaborate on the terms of the probation nor did it reference specifically why Smith was being dealt the punishment.
But Robin Milligan, the college’s spokeswoman, linked Smith’s punishment to her comments in the City Paper article.
‘The student is not speaking as a spokesperson for the college, and as a result, the college has been misrepresented in the article that has been written about us,’ Milligan said.
Milligan also said administrators never told the students they could not use the name Toques and Ties, claiming that officials only told the students they could not use the name Baltimore International College Toques and Ties because the university was planning to start its own newsletter by that name.
The Maryland trademark office lists Tracey Eileen Webster’one of the student editors’as the registered trademark owner of the name Toques and Ties.
Elaine English, a Washington, D.C., attorney and expert on trademark law, said a dispute over who owns the name Toques and Ties would ultimately have to be resolved by a judge if neither side backed down. English said a judge would attempt to determine whether the students or the college was the ‘first user’ of the name.
While English said the trademark registration would help the students’ case, she added that she would not be surprised if college administrators decided to challenge the registration’s legitimacy.
One of the students involved who was contacted by the Report declined to comment for fear of retaliation from administrators.
The first issue of Baltimore International College Toques and Ties debuted this summer and contained an apology to anyone who might have been offended by the ‘Bake your Buns’ ad. Milligan said future issues of the newsletter would be released under a different name.