Former Kansas State adviser received positive evaluations prior to being fired

KANSAS — Former KansasState Collegian adviser Ron Johnson was fired despite five of his mostrecent job evaluations rating him as “excellent” and another stating that he”exceeds expectations,” according to a report by the AssociatedPress.The AP reported May 18 that Stephen White, dean of the College ofArts and Sciences, upheld the recommendation of journalism school director ToddSimon that Johnson be removed as adviser to the student newspaper and asdirector of student publications at Kansas State University. Whiteoverruled, however, Simon’s recommendation that the college not renew Johnson’sfaculty teaching contract. Johnson will remain on the faculty through the2005-2006 school year.According to a May 7 letter to White obtained bythe AP, Simon said Johnson’s “advising about reporting and writing isunsatisfactory and apparently has been for some time.”Johnson said theMay 7 letter recommending his removal as adviser contained an analysis of thenewspaper’s content and found that the newspaper failed to adequately coverdiversity issues and events. Johnson believes he was fired in partbecause of protests by members of the student group Black Student Union afterthe newspaper failed to cover the Big 12 Diversity Leadership Conference, whichdrew about 1,000 students to the campus in Manhattan. Courts haveconsistently ruled that media advisers at public colleges cannot exert anyeditorial control over student publications.Simon was quoted by theAssociated Press as saying that his decision had nothing to do with the studentprotests. He said a decline in the overall quality of the newspaper led to hisdecision to fire Johnson.”The pattern had been really consistent interms of reporting and writing having gotten weak,” Simon said. “It’s kind oflike a coach; if the record is middling, usually you change coaches.”OnMarch 20, College Media Advisers named the Collegian the best four-yeardaily broadsheet newspaper in the country at its 2004 nationalconvention.Simon did not respond to a request forcomment.Johnsons’s most recent evaluation, dated March 15, rated hisperformance as “exceeds expectations” and recommended that he receive a raise.It praised the newspaper’s design, graphics and photojournalism but noted thatthe news content “seemed weaker than in past years,” according to theAP.According to a report in the May 17 Topeka Capital-Journal,Simon wants the board that oversees the Collegian to adopt a policyrequiring editors to actively recruit minority students as staff members. Simon,who is chairman of the student publications board, cited the Collegian‘slack of staff diversity as one of the reasons it failed to cover the Big 12Diversity Leadership Conference.

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