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OC board, president suggest changes for Olympian

It isn’t a matter of First Amendment rights, it’s a matter of respect. The recent controversy over an advertisement in Olympic College’s student newspaper, The Olympian, has prompted the school’s Board of Trustees and president to recommend the formation of an editorial board to set editorial and advertising policies for the paper.

In question is a full-page ad recruiting employees for a local strip club, which features several scantily clad women, promises high pay with flexible hours, and suggests it’s a “Great way to pay for school.”

A special meeting of the Board of Trustees took place May 4 to approve the wording of a letter to be sent to the editor of The Olympian, expressing disappointment in the decision to run the ad and suggesting the formation of an editorial board. The letter was unanimously approved and signed by Board Chairwoman Alice Tawresey and OC President David Mitchell.

The letter states, in part, “At Olympic College, we value our students and we encourage their intellectual pursuits. Our values statement, which the board endorses, says ‘We believe that we can best achieve our educational mission by showing respect for all individuals.’ To suggest that a woman’s body is her most marketable commodity is, at best, disrespectful, and at worst, deeply offensive.”

Anthony James, the editor-in-chief of The Olympian, said he was uncomfortable with the idea of an editorial board acting as an “oversight” committee. “We’ll look into it,” James said, “but by no means are we necessarily going to do it.” James continued to say the ad would continue to run, and pointed out that the $3,500 brought in by the ad funded badly needed equipment for the paper.

“If money is the issue, then that’s unfortunate,” Tawresey said, “and we’d ought to look into how the paper is funded.”

Nathaniel Hong, a member of OC’s English faculty who attended the meeting, saw the suggestion of the editorial board as a much deeper issue than simply addressing the running of one ad. “It does seem to be a twisting of the arm,” Hong said. “The goal seems to be taking the control out of the students’ hands. To increase the control of administrators.”

The letter does not suggest who would be part of the editorial board. It states, “For the paper to best serve Olympic College’s diverse student body, its decisions need to be made by a broader, more representative group of people. We are suggesting The Olympian form an editorial board. In a manner common to public media practice, this editorial board would set editorial and advertising policies for the paper, which we hope would reflect the value the school community places on respect.”

“It’s not an uncommon model,” Mitchell said. “We simply want to suggest the formation of an editorial board. There’s no hidden agenda.”

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