Muscatine Community College newspaper sues administration



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MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — Current and former staffers of Muscatine Community College's newspaper are suing the school alleging free speech violations.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday against the college and its president, dean and board of trustees claims the paper and the college disagreed about articles and photos since 2013, as well as supervision, the Muscatine Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1GT9BLd ). Jim Compton, a staff member and adviser for The Calumet, will be replaced by part-time adviser.

According to the lawsuit, Compton's replacement amounts to censorship because the part-time adviser won't be able to put in the amount of time needed. Compton said the paper has had a full-time adviser since 1951.

Conflict began in 2013, when the newspaper published an article about a possible conflict of interest in the college's Student of the Month selection process, prompting a complaint against Compton. Mary Mason, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, said tension grew when a staff member was angered by a faculty photo and he told her she needed his permission to run faculty photos in the future.

Compton told the Muscatine Journal in March that when he informed Dean Gail Spies of students' intention to run a story about the exchange between Mason and the faculty member, he was warned that the move would negatively affect the paper. Within a week of the article's publication, he was told he'd be replaced.

During an April interview with the Muscatine Journal, Spies defended the decision, saying she didn't think it would harm their ability to produce a newspaper.

"If I thought that this was gonna hurt (The Calumet), I wouldn't have done it," she said.

Mikkie Schiltz, the lawyer representing the defendants, said they disagree with "most if not all the contentions made in the lawsuit." She also said the college is committed to upholding the constitutional rights of all those involved.

Mason argued the lawsuit was a last resort to protect the paper, not a premeditated action against the college.

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Information from: Muscatine Journal, http://www.muscatinejournal.com

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The Associated Press

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