Controversy raised after Hutch CC shuts down school paper for rest of semester

Published: May. 1, 2017 at 10:59 PM CDT
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Monday, Hutchinson Community College (HCC) shut down its school paper, the Collegian, for the rest of the semester.

The college president says 'it's a personnel issue'. But one of the student journalists says it's really about a series of articles they've written accusing the school's administration of bullying faculty and students.

"I don't feel welcome at this college anymore. I feel like there's just hostility from the head down," said Jeff Leddy, a member of the Collegian's student journalist staff.

Jeff is finishing his freshman year at HCC and doesn't think he'll be back after this last semester.

He says when he showed up Monday morning to work on the school paper, the college told him the Collegian was no more, not this semester, at least.

"Today they just locked it up, stole the press run and they said, 'We're cancelling the rest of your semester,'" explained Alan Montgomery, the professor who teaches the newspaper class at HCC.

Jeff and Montgomery say Monday's move came after months of fighting with the college over articles critical of the administration.

"The trouble started with the publication of Dec 2 of these two stories," Montgomery said. "It outlined the abuse of one of our professors by administration who's a 30 year distinguished professor."

"Not a false light or a libelous light, but just it makes them look a little bad because of what they've done," Jeff said describing the articles.

He says after he found the newsroom locked up he was able to get permission to pick up some personal items he'd left there. At the same time he says he grabbed the copies of the paper they hadn't fully distributed on Friday.

"Grabbed my clip book and novel and then I just grabbed all the newspapers so I could distribute them," he said.

Before he got the chance, he says security caught up to him and demanded the papers back.

"And I said it's a First Amendment issue and he said, 'Well, that's something you'll have to address in a lawsuit.'" Jeff said.

Hutchinson Community College President Carter File spoke by phone with Eyewitness News about the incident.

"The papers were not really theirs to take," File said.

Montgomery likens the action to theft because the papers are printed with money from student fees. File maintains the papers went to those who paid for them.

"The papers are in the news stands. All of the copies of that paper have been distributed," he told Eyewitness News. "No papers were ever removed from the news stands."

File confirmed there will be no more copies of the paper this semester and that the remainder of the term is cancelled for the newspaper class. He denies this has anything to do with the student's work.

"I would say it's absolutely not true that we targeted students for anything that they wrote," File said.

Jeff disagreed. "We have never experienced any control from the administration acting as publishers before....In the first semester, before we started reporting on some of this, it wasn't like this....It seems like there's been a pattern of targeting us at the...Collegian."

At this point the school says students will get their grades for the class based on the work already done. But HCC isn't sure if those grades will come from the professor or someone else.

Montgomery says the college suspended him with pay last Friday.