Dispute continues at N.Y. college in selection of adviser

NEW YORK — Student staff members of theWestern Student Press at Suffolk County Community College say they areoutraged because the campus’ dean denied their recommended candidates forthe paper’s adviser position. In a meeting last week, severalfaculty members agreed, proposing a resolution that would have expresseddisapproval of the dean’s decision. The resolution was struck down by somemembers before it could be discussed, said Eric Lindermayer, a philosophyprofessor and co-sponsor of the bill.Earlier in March, student editorsat the paper made a recommendation to Grant Campus Executive Dean JoAnne Braxtonto appoint journalism professor Jeff Kluewer as the paper’s adviser, withmath professor Kathy Benjamin as co-adviser. Both candidates had advised thenewspaper in the past.Representatives from the administration say thedenial was based solely on personnel matters they cannot discuss, but studentsand staff members allege this is yet another way the administration is trying tolimit the effectiveness of the campus student press. The Western StudentPress has not been published yet this year because staff members aredependent on the adviser to design the newspaper. Lindermayer, who hasbeen at Suffolk County Community College for 27 years, said, “There havebeen strange actions that seem to be attempts to suppress or control thenews.” In the proposed resolution brought before a governance assemblycomprised of faculty and staff, he expressed disapproval of the dean’saction and recommended that she reverse her decision. Before it couldcome up for a vote, other members rejected the resolution because said it wasoutside the purview of the assembly. Robert DeZorzi, chair of the social sciencedepartment and one of the assembly members who disapproved of the resolution,refused to comment except to say that the resolution was “notgermane,” or relevant. Western Student Press staff membersinterview adviser candidates and make recommendations, but the hiring decisionis left entirely to the executive dean. After the recommendation was made,student editors were upset to learn that a journalist unaffiliated with thecollege would be brought in as an interim adviser. Western Student PressEditor Christal Schiffbauer said she thinks the decision was based onBraxton’s dislike of Kluewer and Benjamin.“Your personalfeelings should have nothing to do with what’s going on at thispaper,” Schiffbauer said. “She has something against [Kluewer], andshe’s obviously bringing it out in this matter.”Kluewer, whohas been at the university since 1974, is the only journalism professor at theGrant campus, where the Western Student Press is published. SuffolkCounty Community College is comprised of three campuses —Ammerman, Easternand Grant — each with its own newspaper.Kluewer said after therecommendation was declined, he had a meeting with Braxton, which he taperecorded. During this meeting he said Braxton accused him of treating studentslike pawns and of having an extreme dislike for administrators. She also citedpersonnel issues regarding Kluewer’s past. Braxton did not return phonecalls, but Tom Wendt, director of student activities, said the administrationstands behind Braxton’s decision.“Any suggestion that DeanBraxton has any interest whatsoever in suppressing free speech is completelyunfounded,” Wendt said. “Dean Braxton is a very sound leader, a verystrongly student-oriented person, so if she has reasons not to appoint someone,I have complete confidence that those reasons are valid.”Kluewerwas the first adviser for the newspaper when it was founded in 1976, andretained the position until 1981 when he was removed by the college presidentfor unspecified reasons. Two years later he was re-appointed as adviser andstayed with the paper until 1993, when he resigned. Though Braxton couldnot be reached in March, she previously said she prefers to appoint newprofessors to the adviser position to give the newspaper a fresh voice. Schiffbauer said depriving students of the only journalism professor oncampus is detrimental to the newspaper’s success. She added that theadministration’s decision to appoint Greg Sarra, a sports writer forNewsday, as adviser could mean the students will receive less help due toSarra’s busy schedule. Newspaper staff members are still waiting topublish the first issue of the year. Students and faculty members havealso pointed to an effort by the president and several administrators to combinethe college’s three campus newspapers into one campus-wide publication asan effort to censor. A task force is currently examining the possibility ofcreating the newspaper that would be produced at the Ammerman campus.Administrators say this move would promote campus unity, but students say itwould silence the independent voices of each campus. Task force member MichaelWeissberg said a recommendation regarding the idea should be made by summer.