Discussions of proposed reassigned teaching loads could result in the elimination of The Sunflower, the campus yearbook, as a student-run publication.
“I raised the question with the interim department chair to see if we could create a course that students would enroll in so that (advising) could be a teaching-related kind of a function because that’s really what we’ve been instructed to do,” said Provost Teresa Mehring.
This conversation occurred after the fall 2008 Legislative Post Audit, which compared teaching loads of the six Regents Institutions, among other things. The audit showed Emporia State as having the highest reassigned teaching loads of any institution and the Kansas Board of Regents challenged the university to lower it.
“It makes us stand out in a very negative fashion and it makes us an easy target when it comes to budget kinds of decisions,” Mehring said.
A reassigned teaching load means that a professor is given time apart from teaching for research, advising or other things of that nature.
One such position is held by Tom Winski, who has an eighth of his job designated to advising The Sunflower. The proposed reassignments did not have his position as adviser listed. Instead, there has been discussion of yearbook as a class.
“There’re a lot of issues that need to be considered, not the least of which is if The Sunflower is a class and as instructor I’m supposed to give a grade, that conflicts with The Sunflower being an independent student publication,” Winski said. “There would be a perception that I would read through and grade things before-hand, which is a violation of student rights.”
Winski said, as proposed, the yearbook staff positions would remain paid student jobs. Lindsey Gentry, Editor-in-Chief of The Sunflower and senior business management major, said this could pose a problem in funding the publication, which currently runs on a budget of $90,000.
“I’m afraid of our funding being cut completely because if we’re considered a class and they’re already cutting things on the academic side, I don’t know how we’d have enough money if we didn’t have the support of Associated Student Government funding,” Gentry said.
In addition, if The Sunflower had an instructor rather than adviser, Winski said the instructor, not the Editor-in-Chief, would control the publication. This would allow for prior review and ultimately censorship, which is strictly prohibited in the College Media Adviser’s Code of Ethics, the recognized professional standard of conduct for advisers.
“Faculty, staff and other non-students who assume advisory roles with student media must remain aware of their obligation to defend and teach without censoring, editing, directing or producing,” the document says.
Article II of the Student Media Board Constitution, the governing document for the board and The Sunflower, reinstates this idea:
“The editors and managers of the student media are free to develop their own editorial policies and news coverage or content.”
But Marie Miller, Department of English, Modern Languages and Journalism interim chair, said that after talking to Winski yesterday, she realized yearbook as a class is not plausible.
“After I proposed this to Winski I learned it would not be possible because The Sunflower is a student publication and is funded by ASG and that it would not be appropriate to have class for this,” Miller said. “We will not have it as a course, we will have an adviser to the Sunflower not in a class situation. It will operate the same way it does now.”
But at an open forum yesterday evening, Mehring said yearbook as a class is still being considered. The first forum was on Tuesday, the second yesterday and the third was held after press time today.
Winski said communication could clear up confusion.
“I trust and hope that people making final decisions will listen to what people have to say and the law,” Winski said. “Whether it’s going to be a independent publication depends on whether they want it to be a student publication and the voice of the students or a publication of the English department.”