A potentially explosive situation is at hand.
The Sunflower, Emporia State’s yearbook for over 100 years, may be in danger of becoming a class instead of an independent publication.
And frankly, that’s unacceptable.
Currently, the Sunflower is designated as an independent publication in the university handbook and the Student Media Board constitution.
However, according to the Teaching Load Reassigned Time Draft Proposal of April 19, a university report, the adviser for the Sunflower was not listed as receiving any release time to advise the publication. The report was in response to inefficiency concerns in the Legislative Post Audit and from the Kansas Board of Regents.
If the Sunflower becomes a class, as has been proposed by some administrators, the Sunflower will lose its independence.
When a publication loses its independence, it is not just losing a title. The students who work on the publication in a classroom lose the ability to choose what ultimately appears in print.
Prior review becomes the name of the game. Instructors (who, at a state school are seen as extensions of the state) have the ability to edit or completely eliminate anything they want from publication.
We are pre-professionals, not high school journalists, and many of us are using our experience as workplace training. If these changes were to occur, how could students continue to receive salaries? How could an editor discipline his or her peers in a classroom setting? How can the Sunflower continue to function as an independent publication when the instructor – who answers to the administration – has the option of giving a bad grade to a student? How can an instructor not be retaliated against by the administration for what they “allow” students to publish in a classroom setting?
Independence of student publications, especially at a public university, is a pillar of free speech in America. Our greatest fear is that turning the yearbook into a class would set a precedent for all student publications – a precedent that would destroy the integrity of the journalism program and the people in it.
There is no doubt that the articles in the Sunflower vary from those in the Bulletin. But despite the type or quality of content produced by these publications, free speech must be protected.
On a campus where freedom of expression is (or at least should be) a core value, there must be a free and vibrant press.
If the Sunflower is turned into a class, is the Bulletin far behind?
We call upon the administration to scrap any plans it may have to turn the Sunflower into a “class project.”