N.Y. college adviser loses job, editors fear censorship if student senate proposal stands

NEW YORK — The student newspaper adviser at NiagaraCounty Community College will lose her job paving the way for a journalismfaculty member to oversee the paper if a student senate proposal that passedApril 29 is allowed to stand. The plan slashes $23,500 of the funding providedto The Spirit student newspaper, which is the only campus organizationthat received a major budget cut this year, editors say.Collegeofficials said that the elimination of the full-time adviser position, whichwas funded through student activity fees that are allocated to TheSpirit, will allow the school to create a new position in the studentactivities office, unrelated to the newspaper. Meanwhile, they say the studentjournalists will be better instructed by a journalism professor, whose courseload will be cut in half to allow for the now part-time advisoryposition.Student editors, who will appeal the decision tomorrow, say thefiring of adviser Dale Austin and the reassignment of her position to a facultymember is nothing more than a veiled attempt by administrators to censor thebiweekly paper. Tina Soliday, editor in chief of The Spirit, saidadministrators have criticized several articles, editorials and a cartoon,including a feature story on pipe smoking and a front-page story about rape oncolleges campuses nationwide. She said administrators were concerned thatstudents would think the rapes occurred at Niagara.“When I go totalk to [Dean of Students Greg MacConnell], he says, ‘I’m not tryingto censor you, I just think that your adviser should take a stronger stance toquestion things,’” Soliday said.Austin also said she hadbeen called into MacConnell’s office to discuss coverage in TheSpirit.“I said I can’t censor [the paper]. And he saidto me, ‘Your job is to make the college look good,’” Austinsaid.MacConnell said he is not attempting to censor the newspaper.“I would block any administration attempt to try to say thenewspaper is the voice piece of the administration,” he said.ButMacConnell said he is in favor of the proposal to move to a part-time faculty.“I do feel very strongly that a faculty adviser would strengthenthe learning atmosphere of our newspaper,” he said. “I feel likeoverall the student leaders want the change. There is a small minority ofstudents that are very disgruntled, and I’m sorry if they are, but my jobas dean of students is to make sure we have a greatnewspaper.”Soliday said that the Director of Student Activities,David Yaksich is behind the proposal because the position it creates, ActivitiesProgram Leader, will work with him and lessen his workload.Yaksich saidthe activities program leader position, created in the student activities officewith the newspaper’s old funding, is important addition to the staff because theperson will work with all students on campus. “We’rebasically taking the same amount of money and providing two major services withit. We’re still providing the adviser to the student newspaper andwe’re able to create a new position, which will deal with allclubs,” Yaksich said.But Soliday said that Yaksich’s numbersdo not add up and that the student senate will spend, at minimum, an additional$7,500 a year under the new proposal.“They [would pay] thisactivities program leader [more than] $31,000 a year while Dale was making justabout $31,000 a year. They also [would pay] the new [part-time] adviser $7,500 ayear. They’re not saving any money by doing this,” Solidaysaid.An open senate meeting to challenge the budget is scheduled for May8, and Soliday said that several former Niagara students who worked on TheSpirit when it had a part-time adviser would attend the meeting to voiceopposition to the senate proposal. “It didn’t work the lasttime, but David Yaksich has been telling and informing the student senate thatit has worked, and it worked well, and there was not problems with it before. Ijust don’t believe any of it,” Soliday said.