Supporters of a College of DuPage journalism professor who was removed as adviser of the student newspaper called on college administrators and board members Thursday to reinstate her.
Cathy Stablein has been faculty adviser to the Courier for 24 years but was removed from that position June 1. College officials say the move was made so Stablein could focus more of her efforts on restructuring the school's journalism program, which has faced declining enrollment and been placed on the college's "Critical Program Review" list.
But during a college board of trustees meeting, those who spoke in support of Stablein as adviser questioned the motivation of administrators who decided to reassign her.
"The administration thinks they know how the student newspaper works when they've constantly showed they know nothing about it," said Vikaas Shanker, who was the Courier's editor-in-chief last school year.
Shanker has said he thinks Stablein's removal was in response to the publication's critical coverage of the administration and is an attempt to cripple student media.
Nick Davison, the paper's current editor, called the administration's decision "an outrageous action" that tampers with the important adviser-editor relationship Stablein had with her students for years.
"Past editors have said working on the Courier was one of the best experiences, and how much they learned from Cathy," Davison said.
Stablein's colleagues are also upset with the decision, according to Ken Gray, the president of the COD Faculty Association. The faculty senate unanimously passed a resolution last week expressing "deep concern" with Stablein's removal and urged the college's leadership to respect the academic and journalistic integrity of the Courier.
"I'm worried that this move, even if well-intentioned, will make it difficult for the Courier to fulfill its role in promoting citizenship for the whole college community," Gray told board members.
The faculty resolution also said current COD President Robert Breuder's administrations have shown a history of "suggesting interference with college publications."
Dann Gire of Hoffman Estates said at the meeting he was fired in 2006 as adviser to the Harper College student newspaper in Palatine -- when Breuder was president there. Incoming student newspaper staffers were dismissed, and the paper was shut down for a year, Gire said. Gire is the Daily Herald's film critic.
"When a state school removes an adviser and it doesn't involve incompetence, unethical behavior or illegal activity, it falls under political motivation," said Gire, mentioning the Illinois Campus Press Act.
Meanwhile, college officials have appointed a temporary adviser for the summer while a committee of faculty and staff members begins a search for a permanent adviser to start in the fall.
In a statement, college spokesman Joe Moore said Stablein was removed as adviser so she could devote full time to "breathing life into a journalism program currently at risk."
"If the program is ultimately not found to be viable, then Ms. Stablein's own employment at the college would be jeopardized," Moore said. "We are attempting to avoid this by giving Ms. Stablein and her fellow journalism professors every opportunity to strengthen the program."