Online UpdateVanishing Newspapers Stir Trouble on Campus

The Glendale News-Press’ Vince Lovato first reported on the missing newspapers at Glendale College in the June 21 edition of the paper. In this story, he introduces us to the issue at hand and what the administration had in mind when it got word of El Vaquero’s story.

GLENDALE — It was either a violation of the First Amendment or an honest mistake, but about 1,000 copies of Glendale Community College’s El Vaquero student newspaper containing an article about two student suicides were missing from their racks Tuesday morning.

Faculty advisor Michael Moreau said Supt. John Davitt wanted to order campus police to confiscate all copies of the student newspaper on Monday because he was upset with the story about two nursing program students who allegedly committed suicide in separate incidents, and also about an accompanying cartoon.

But Davitt said although he was upset about the article, he did not have the papers removed and vowed to find out why they were missing.

It could have been custodians who were cleaning up the campus or angry faculty members who removed the papers, Davitt said.

“I didn’t like one of the articles but it’s out and it’s done,” he said. “We didn’t [remove the papers]. We were going to [on Monday]. I thought they were out there today. He asked me not to pull them and I said I would not.”

El Vaquero student reporter Pauline Guiuan wrote a story in the June 9 edition about suicide trends among college students nationwide and provided information about how students can get help for stress and depression at Glendale Community College. As part of her report she included the apparent suicides of two adult students.

Moreau was called into Davitt’s office on Monday where Davitt and nursing program director Cynthia Dorroh confronted him, he said.

At that time, Davitt said he would order campus police to take the newspapers off the seven stands on campus and asked Moreau to take the story off the newspaper website, Moreau said.

Moreau did pull the story off the website but asked Davitt if he would leave the papers on the rack until Thursday.

“I said, ‘John, I wish you wouldn’t confiscate the newspapers. This is a bad precedent and it’s not the right thing to do,'” Moreau said. “It has been out since June 9 and yesterday was the first I heard of this stuff.”

Davitt agreed to the compromise, but when Moreau reported for work Tuesday morning he noticed that all the papers were gone.

“Their concern basically was that they thought it cast the nursing program in a bad light,” Moreau said, adding that this was the first time the administration interfered in his six years as the advisor.

“One of the students was named and they thought it was insensitive.”

It was the last edition of the semester and the paper doesn’t print during the summer, he said.

The college’s associated student government funds the paper and sells advertising to offset costs, Moreau said.

But the college provides class space, computers and software for the journalism program, and pays Moreau’s salary and some expenses, Davitt said.

“So it’s not an independent newspaper,” Davitt said. “Which makes it even more annoying. She maligned the nursing program in a way that, to me, verges on libel. It’s not winnable in court but it is unfair.”

Guiuan, who graduated with honors and is transferring to Cal State Northridge to continue studying journalism, said she used an anonymous letter and the website to get background about the suicides that she then confirmed with public records from the Los Angeles County Coroner.

“It was hard because nobody wanted to talk about it,” said Guiuan. “Students were fearful and the one who talked to me had already graduated.”

Suicide is a growing trend nationally among college students and Glendale has many resources to help student cope with depression, she said.

If the papers were purposely pulled off the racks, it would violate the First Amendment, Guiuan said.

“I don’t think its fair,” she said. “It’s a student publication and as much as they are protecting some people, we found out this information through public sources. And we have freedom of speech. There’s nothing wrong with putting out a story like this to students or the community as a whole.”

The story didn’t focus on the suicides, but on information and medical data, she said.