Court revokes order that blocked Kansas State from removing newspaper adviser

KANSAS — A federal court on July 14 dissolved a temporary restraining order that kept administrators at Kansas State University from reassigning student publications adviser Ron Johnson.

Johnson temporarily was reinstated to his position on July 6 after the same federal court issued an order that required university administrators to allow him to resume his position of adviser and director of Student Publications, Inc., the organization that oversees the finances of the newspaper and other student media at the university.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, who issued the original order earlier this month, said Johnson and Katie Lane, a former student editor of the Kansas State Collegian and co-plaintiff in the case, failed to show irreparable injury caused by Johnson’s reassignment, and that his removal violated either plaintiffs’ First Amendment’s rights, the Associated Press reported.

Sarah Rice, a fall 2004 editor of the Collegian, signed on the day of the hearing as another plaintiff in the case.

The plaintiffs, as well as two members of the Student Publications Board of Directors testified on Johnson’s behalf during the nine-hour hearing.

Robinson also said the federal court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the issue of Johnson’s contract with the university, the AP reported.

The court’s ruling means Linda Puntney will resume her role as interim adviser to the Collegian.

Johnson said he will discuss his next move with his attorney.

“We’re very disappointed because the issues we thought were important weren’t really addressed,” Johnson said. “The chilling effect of the adviser’s reassignment upon the students who produce the newspaper was not addressed. The due process that was not given to me during this reassignment was not addressed.”

Johnson and Lane filed the lawsuit on July 5 against Todd Simon, director of the university’s journalism school, and Stephen White, dean of arts and sciences at the university, over Johnson’s removal.

In the lawsuit, Johnson offered to resume his position at no cost to Kansas State.

Simon and White testified that Simon based his recommendation to reassign Johnson on a content analysis of the Collegian and the relationship Johnson had with others on the campus, the AP reported.

Johnson and Lane believe administrators reassigned Johnson in May because they objected to the content of the newspaper.

Lane testified that Johnson was a good adviser and never stepped in to control the content of the newspaper. She said the concern now is whether students will fell that they have the freedom to report events on campus and present them in a matter that will not result in future advisers being sanctioned, the AP reported.

“We have an administration that is certainly focused on positive news,” Johnson said. “One thing, when you have an independent voice such as [the Collegian], that can mean for some debate and some controversy.” Supporters of Johnson, including former Collegian alumni and other media professionals, began a petition for Johnson’s reinstatement, available here.

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