Remember freedom of the press? The administration at Muscatine doesn’t seem to.

Sarah McLaughlin reports at the FIRE blog.

Students File Suit After Muscatine C.C. Attempts to Chill Newspaper’s Speech

Journalists at The Calumet, the student newspaper at Muscatine Community College (MCC), claim MCC’s administration attempted to intimidate the paper due to its critical reporting. Now they’re fighting back.

Earlier this week, 12 past and current members of The Calumet filed a complaint against MCC administrators and officials from the Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) system, of which MCC is a member institution. They are represented by Student Press Law Center volunteer counsel: Bryan Clark of the law firm Vedder Price, and local counsel Glen Downey.

The lawsuit alleges that MCC and EICC permitted “faculty and staff members to intimidate and harass student journalists without repercussions, allowing a faculty member to pursue a baseless EEO [equal employment opportunity] charge based on the content of an article, removing a full-time faculty advisor and replacing him with a part time adjunct, modifying the fall 2015 class schedule to marginalize the journalism program, and various other actions that amount to censorship by intimidation.”

As described in the complaint, The Calumet’s problems began in October 2013, when plaintiff and former student journalist Spencer Ludman published an article about potential conflicts of interest associated with MCC’s Student of the Month award. The award, whose recipient is selected by the Student Senate, was twice awarded to the niece of Student Senate Faculty Adviser John Dabeet.

Dabeet filed an equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint against Calumet advisor James Compton, claiming the article was retaliatory in nature, despite the fact that the article was solely the product of The Calumet’s student journalists. LaDrina Wilson, MCC’s EEO and Affirmative Action Officer at the time, contacted the paper for more information about the article but refused to give the students any information about the origin or targets of the investigation.