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Southwestern College officials say they are working with their student newspaper to ensure that it can be printed.

The paper was supposed to go to print last week, but held off after college officials warned that doing so could have unspecified “ramifications.”

College officials said the Southwestern Sun had failed to follow college contracting rules when choosing their printer. Students charged that the college was invoking the rules as a smokescreen to stop them from printing critical coverage of the administration before a heated election. The election is just one stage in a drawn out battle between the administration and faculty and students on how to turn the school around.

This weekend the college and the newspaper released a joint statement saying, “The Administration and Sun have identified measures that could allow the paper to be printed until a long-term agreement can be reached.”

Max Branscomb, the faculty advisor for the Sun, said the tentative plan is to set up quick, official agreements with printers so that the newspaper can be printed this week. The Sun has previously chosen printers at will, rather than having a single, approved printer. Afterwards, Branscomb said, the Sun would work with the college to set up a formal bidding process for a newspaper printer.

College board member Jorge Dominguez said last week that he was dismayed that the newspaper could be stopped by the neglected policy, since it had little time to comply. Southwestern College officials said they have been trying to ensure that its policies are reviewed and followed because the school’s accreditation is in jeopardy.

“We need to follow policy, no doubt, but let’s give these folks more time,” Dominguez said. He said he spoke directly with College President Raj Chopra about it. “I told him, ‘The timing is bad. They haven’t had enough time to figure out how to follow it. They didn’t even know it was there.’”

Another board member, Terri Valladolid, said the newspaper should have gotten in line with the rules after Branscomb was contacted earlier this month. “It’s not like it was just yesterday,” Valladolid said.

While college leaders debated what the Sun should have done and whether it made sense to stop the presses, Branscomb said the episode resulted in an outpouring of support for the newspaper.

“I got 1,700 e-mails. I got phone calls,” Branscomb said. “Now we have as much money to print the paper as many times as we want to.”

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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