2011 College Press Freedom Award Recipient: The Sun, Southwestern College

For enduring and ultimately prevailing in a nasty squabble with vindictive school officials, The Sun at California’s Southwestern College has earned the 2011 College Press Freedom Award.

In an anouncement earlier today, the Student Press Law Center and Associated Collegiate Press confirmed that the Sun staff and adviser “endured a pattern of escalating attacks that culminated in temporarily shutting down their paper in a naked attempt to suppress coverage of a closely contested board of trustees election.”

At the start of the previous school year, Southwestern administrators literally blocked publication of the student paper’s first issue.  They suddenly said the Sun had to follow a previously-ignored rule on the school books that required the paper “to put its printing business out to competitive bid and sign a contract with the winning bidder.”  It was nothing more than censorship, an attempt to minimize bad press about the trustees board.

This bidding war ploy was mixed with additional censorship and threats, all aimed at stopping the Sun from asking tough questions and exposing the truth: Southwestern College has been sporting some seriously corrupt and inept admins. whose stop-the-press tactics were so evil they made Scar from “Lion King” look benevolent.

As the Sun‘s adviser Max Branscomb told the SPLC, “What happened at Southwestern College last fall was the worst fear of journalists and Americans who cherish our precious free speech rights.”

Fortunately, the paper fought back, running a series of fantastic reports exposing the ridiculousness and corruptness.  SPLC director Frank LoMonte: “The administrators of Southwestern College threw everything they had at these journalists, even threatening them with a trumped-up criminal investigation, and through it all, the journalists kept on doing exactly what journalists are supposed to do: Pursue the story, wherever it led. Their reporting exposed gross mismanagement at the college, including the deliberate wasteful spending of millions of dollars to conceal how badly the school had missed its budget estimates.”

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