Officials fire adviser in dispute over content

Students say college president wants to control newspaper

NEBRASKA -- Good news isn't cheap.

At Peru State College, administrators are accused of doing everything they can, including censoring the student newspaper and firing the adviser, to make sure positive news comes out of the struggling institution.

Controversy struck last November during an investigation by then-editor Kathy Chase into a sexual assault on campus.

Peru State Times adviser Matt Mauch said college President Ben Johnson attempted to prevent Chase from covering the incident.

"They were telling her this is beyond your jurisdiction," Mauch said. "You do not want to write about this; if you write about this you will get on my bad side. And so I didn't want to talk to anybody until the paper came out because then they would be pulling me into it as well."

Mauch's relationship with the administration continued to be strained. In April, he was given a terminal contract after one year at Peru State, even though he says his colleagues thought he was doing a good job and the students liked him.

Some of Mauch's students say his termination is based solely on the fact that he did not censor the paper.

"The reason he was offered a terminal contract in my opinion is directly related to the administration's relationship with the Times," said Cam Pentland, incoming editor in chief. "Matt stood by what we wanted to print, and in most cases, encouraged us to stick with what we wanted to run. ... But that didn't sit well with the administration, and that is why Matt is in his final year of his contract."

Peru State spokesman Jerry Martin said he could not comment on Mauch's case because it was a personnel matter, but did say the administration had not had problems with the paper.

Mauch said the president stepped outside his bounds.

"He never talked to anyone in the department; he's doing this completely on his own," Mauch said. "Out of the blue, the president steps in and says I'm firing him because I don't like the newspaper."

Mauch, who has been teaching at the college level for nine years, said the school was looking for an easy way to control the situation, and he had to pay the price.

"They decided to solve the problem by letting me go," he said.

Fall 2000, reports