Southwestern College Paper Shut Down Over Printing Dispute

Weird story out of San Diego. The award-winning Southwestern College Sun newspaper has been shut down, and may not run again, because school officials say the paper failed to secure a proper bid for their printer, choosing instead to print at will. Southwestern Chief of Communications Chris Bender told the website Voice of San Diego the school paper had violated a 20-year-old policy of purchasing printing services “in accordance with standard college procedure for all bids.”

So you’re going to shut the paper down? Really?

The Sun’s faculty adviser Max Branscomb explains the situation thusly: “We [pay for printing] like you would buy office supplies. This has been the standard practice for more than three decades.”

Voice of San Diego has more:

Students and the newspaper faculty adviser say that the paper is being attacked for political reasons. Branscomb was first contacted about two weeks ago by Donna Arnold, dean of the school of arts and communication, who told him the newspaper had to seek bids for printing. He disagreed, arguing in a memo that he had long been given freedom to choose printers, based on a set budget.

Yesterday, Arnold e-mailed Branscomb, saying “the printing of the SUN newspaper may have ramifications.”

“What Dean Arnold told them is they have to be in compliance with the same business practices that every other department of campus is complaint with,” Bender said. He pointed out that even if printing stops, the newspaper can still be published online.

The Sun was supposed to go to print tomorrow. If the printing question has to go to the college board, students fear the board could prevent them from printing before a November election in which three members of the college board are up for re-election.

Their campaigns are tied to the controversial tenure of Superintendent Raj Chopra, who has been in the crosshairs of faculty members after making unpopular, unilateral cuts. The Sun has written extensively about the clashes and their campaigns. Its upcoming issue was slated to include articles about the candidates, the ongoing battle over whether the college will keep its state accreditation, and a summer fundraiser held by the college vice president in which he raised money from companies whose contracts he oversees.

“It seems very convenient. They’re pulling this ancient policy out of nowhere,” said Lyndsay Winkley, a student writer for the Sun.