College of DuPage Student Newspaper Adviser Removed

Longtime Courier adviser Cathy Stablein at the College of DuPage has been removed from her position, a decision critics are calling a “sly attack on free speech and college media.”  Student staffers at the Illinois community college newspaper are speaking out against the ouster and an online petition has been filed, garnering more than 350 signatures so far.

In an email to college media advisers, Northern Star adviser Jim Killam at Northern Illinois University wrote:

“Cathy has been removed from her advising position, with the official reason being the college wants her to spend more time revamping the college’s journalism program. She was told she doesn’t have time to do both (she disagrees). The suspected real reason for this action is that the paper has been doing reporting critical of administration and the school’s board of trustees, and that this is a first step toward eliminating the journalism program. . . . A temporary adviser was appointed this week and– you guessed it– it’s a PR person from the college.”

The current and most recent former editor of the Courier said the move will “cripple the newspaper.”  In a letter to school officials, they wrote, “[T]he removal of Cathy is an act as shady as it is unwarranted.  This action against her comes a semester term after the Courier effectively found and reported on administration’s shortcomings. Through our publication, we called out administration when it excluded student input, exposed a strategic failing of new signage on campus, and gave recommendations on the Board of Trustees election that administrators clearly did not like among other criticisms.”

As Student Press Law Center executive director Frank Lomonte confirms, a linkage between her removal and the newspaper’s content would violate the Illinois College Campus Press Act.  “For LoMonte, a good way to gauge the honesty of the administration’s claims is to ask whether they pass the ‘straight-face test,’ an SPLC report noted.  “‘If this decision was really meant to benefit the newspaper, you’d expect it to be done transparently and with the buy-in of those who are affected,’ he said.”

For a recent AP story, LoMonte said separately, “There are two occupations in America that are more dangerous the better you are at them: journalism adviser and suicide bomber.”

In this respect, collegemediatopia has not been kind to hard-working advisers lately. Along with Stablein, two other recent adviser removals:

1) Patriot Talon adviser Vanessa Curry at the University of Texas at Tyler told the Student Press Law Center she was let go due to “complaints.”  She said the nature of the complaints or the individuals making the complaints were not revealed to her. Curry is convinced school officials began targeting her after Patriot Talon editorial this past semester criticized the school for its lack of communication and maddening “cyclical bureaucracy” surrounding a sudden order for the paper to abandon its newsroom for a new out-of-the-way spot.

2) Chart adviser T.R. Hanrahan at Missouri Southern State University was fired because administrators “wanted to make a change.”  Hanrahan earned the 2010 Missouri College Media Association Adviser of the Year honor.  In his words, “How did I get so bad at my job in 12 months?”  He was not given any answers.

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  1. […] As I previously posted, DuPage admins. abruptly removed Stablein from the adviser positon at the start of the month for the stated purpose of enabling her to concentrate more on the school’s flagging journalism program.  Current Courier editors and other critics were not convinced about this claim, however, calling the school’s decision instead a “sly attack on free speech and college media.” […]