Judge Orders Temporary Reinstatement of Kansas State Newspaper AdviserTOPEKA, Kan.
Afederal judge temporarily reinstated the former adviser of Kansas State University’s student newspaper this week, nearly two months after he was reassigned amid controversy over coverage of a Black student government conference.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson also ordered the school to allow Ron Johnson to temporarily resume his duties as director of student publications and temporarily prohibited administrators from hiring a new adviser.
The judge’s order came in response to a lawsuit filed this week by Johnson and Katie Lane, former editor-in-chief of the Kansas State Collegian. They sued the university, claiming Johnson was improperly dismissed because of the newspaper’s coverage, in violation of his First Amendment rights.
Neither of the two defendants named in the complaint — Todd Simon, director of the university’s journalism school, and Dr. Stephen E. White, dean of arts and sciences — immediately returned calls seeking comment.
Johnson was the focus of complaints last spring from the university’s Black Student Union, which protested the newspaper’s decision not to cover a student government event that drew about 1,000 participants to campus in February.
The group said Johnson had not done enough to foster cultural awareness among newspaper staffers.
In May, Simon recommended Johnson not be reappointed as the newspaper’s adviser. He insisted his decision was based on Johnson’s performance and had nothing to do with the student government controversy.
Johnson said Robinson’s ruling was an “important first step” that protects his First Amendment rights, as well as those of the newspaper and its staff.
Students have said Johnson was unfairly punished for his students’ mistakes.
“They removed an adviser based on a content decision made by me and my editors,” said Lane, now an intern at Florida’s St. Petersburg Times.
— Associated Press
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