FLORIDA — Two months after Manatee Community College officially dissolved the student newspaper the Lance, the paper’s editor in chief, Jim Malec, says he will not let the publication die.
When the newspaper’s adviser, Doug Osman, began requiring students to submit the paper for prior review in February, Manatee administrators and Lance editors began struggling for editorial control over the paper.
Manatee Community College Dean Darlene Wedler-Johnson informed student editors of the Lance in a letter sent out May 20 that she was canceling Journalism 1400, a laboratory class that published the paper.
Wedler-Johnson said in her letter she would rescind the student funds previously allocated to the Lance for the 2004-2005 year; the funds would be returned once the administration had the chance to review the journalism program.
“I think it’s ridiculous that they’re saying they’re canceling the newspaper while they’re reviewing the journalism program,” College Media Advisers President Kathy Lawrence said.
“Student newspapers can continue to exist without classes,” Lawrence said. “Disbanding the paper for not being prior reviewed … that’s patently illegal.”
Student editors argue that the Lance is a separate entity from the class and cannot be canceled because it is supported by student funds.
“The paper doesn’t go away if you dissolve the class,” said Mike Gimignani, former managing editor of the Lance.
At a meeting on Sept. 8 the students in the journalism program were told there were two options for a student newspaper: a student publication receiving space on campus and funding or an independent paper receiving nothing, Gimignani said. The students, including the former Lance staff, chose the former.
Malec said he had assumed the student publication would be a continuation of the Lance. Yet the students in the journalism program named the new paper Veritas and asked Malec to be a senior staff writer, rather than continue as editor in chief. At that point, Malec said, he realized the students in the journalism program were creating a new paper that had nothing to do with the Lance.
On Sept. 24, the college approved Veritas, a new paper, for more than $16,000 from the student activities budget review, leaving the Lance with no support from the university.
Lawrence said the College Media Advisers board has noticed problems with community college newspapers being censored.
Alicia Williams, managing editor of the Cerritos College Talon Mark, said the paper has had many problems with the administrators at the community college in California. According to Williams, the student government is trying to cut the paper’s funding due to spelling errors and mistakes. The student senators are attempting to join the paper’s staff to monitor their inaccuracies, Williams said.
Additionally, when Talon Mark staff attempts to contact college administrators, they are frequently ignored, Williams said. “Our college treats us like we are a very low-on-the-totem-pole paper.”
Malec is considering taking legal action against Manatee Community College, arguing a First Amendment rights violation.
“I am willing and want to work with MCC to be able to solve this problem without going to court,” Malec said.
Malec said he is not printing another issue of the Lance because he wants to focus on creating an environment to make sure the paper will continue to exist “as a free, dedicated forum.”
“I’m not going to quit,” Malec said. “I’m not going to go away. It’s not going to die.”
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