Southwestern College Sun Wins Prestigious Award

SWC's Student-Run Newspaper Is Recipient Of College Press Freedom Award

Southwestern College's student newspaper has added to its long list of awards.

The Southwestern College Sun has been chosen as the 2011 recipient of the College Press Freedom Award, an annual award given out by the Student Press Law Center and the Associated Collegiate Press.

According to a press release, the award is given to a journalist or press entity that "has demonstrated courage in advancing free-press rights for college journalists."

In 2010, the Sun was told it couldn't print its first edition of the fall semester.

"It was the toughest, darkest time of my entire career," said faculty advisor Max Branscomb.

The Sun, which has been named the nation's best college newspaper twice and California's best paper five times, was told by the Southwestern College administration it couldn't print because the paper violated an obscure publishing rule.

"I mean, that is the worst thing anyone could say to a college newspaper advisor: 'Don't print your newspaper,'" said Branscomb.

Branscomb said then-president Dr. Raj Chopra was actually upset about the paper's coverage of the administration.

"We covered them fairly and we gave everybody the same opportunity," said current editor-in-chief Albert Fulcher.

Students said Chopra tried bullying the newspaper staff -- an allegation Chopra denied.

Despite the order to cease printing, the newspaper staff sought out donations and raised roughly $15,000. It printed four full editions on its own.

During his tenure as president, Chopra was headline gold for the Sun. He first appeared in 2007 when he was hired on. However, the headlines became increasingly critical through the years as the layoffs, budget cuts and First Amendment issues swarmed the campus.

Chopra's last headline last year simply read "Chopra Resigns." It is Fulcher's favorite headline.

Branscomb said the paper's fight with Chopra's administration was one reason why the embattled president quit. The staff's fight to get their paper printed won them the prestigious award.

"This is about defending freedom of speech and freedom of press. That's worth more than any award," said Branscomb.

Now, the 2011 Sun staff is preparing for another year's worth of newspapers, without one of its favorite headlines.

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