Student Newspaper Adviser’s Tenure Denied: Response to Unfavorable Coverage?

If the related reports have any merit, the Board of Trustees at Clark College in Washington state should be ashamed with itself.  According to The Chronicle of Higher Education (and others), the board has engaged in the one of the worst kinds of indirect student press censorship: denying tenure to a professor who leads the student newspaper.  Why the denial?  Reports indicate it may be because under her tenure the paper has amped up its coverage of the school administration.

According to the Chronicle: “[T]he journalism professor, Christina Kopinski, fought the administration’s desire to prescreen articles before they were published and advocated a more aggressive brand of journalism when she took over as faculty adviser to The Independent, in 2006. The newspaper subsequently published a number of articles criticizing campus security and certain administrative decisions.”

The board swears the process was handled properly- so properly that it flew in the face of a unanimous tenure approval by the school’s faculty committee and a feeling that her tenure process would be routine.  Hmmmm.  I smell foul play. One faculty member: “[I]s there a subliminal message with it? Are [Clark’s leaders] trying to exert some influence on people, ‘Be careful.'”

To the Clark board: Own up to your failings.  Respect the student newspaper’s role in occasionally pointing them out.  And don’t punish someone for doing her job (and doing it well!).

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