A student editor at the East Los Angeles College newspaper faces expulsion for using what administrators say are confidential records in writing an article about the student body president. The editor contends that the college is trying to silence him because he has been critical of the school.
A disciplinary committee conducted a hearing Monday in the case of Porfirio Flores, managing editor last semester at the Campus News, who wrote an article alleging that Lisa Quesada did not carry enough academic credits to be student body president. Quesada and college officials said the article was mistaken.
Presidents of the student government are required to carry at least nine units and, according to the newspaper, Quesada was taking only three academic units in the spring. Quesada, whose term ended in June, said the records obtained by the paper did not reflect the credits she added after that semester's original registration.
The May 4 article was accompanied by a picture of Quesada's academic transcript. Flores and his supporters say a copy of the document was mailed anonymously to the newspaper. The transcript's authenticity was supposedly corroborated when a photographer for the paper, saying she was a friend of Quesada, obtained a copy of Quesada's receipt for school fees from a records clerk, according to journalism teacher and newspaper adviser Jean Stapleton. The receipt shows how many credits a student has paid for.
Probation for Photographer
The photographer, Beatriz Beltran, faces a year's probation in the matter, and Stapleton received a reprimand. School officials also say Flores had no right to participate in campus affairs because he had failed to pay his student registration fee.
Flores, 31, says he is being persecuted for his criticism of the college in other matters. "They don't like some of the things I've done. I reinstituted an investigative tradition that was dropped for a while," he said. A computer programmer and free-lance writer, Flores was active at the newspaper in the mid-1970s and recently returned; he is scheduled to be editor-in-chief in the fall unless expelled.
Stapleton says the Campus News should be able to print the material because Quesada, by becoming president, lost the privacy protection afforded other students. U.S. Supreme Court decisions, she contends, support the paper's argument that Quesada's qualifications to hold office should be a matter of public debate no matter how the information was obtained.
"An expulsion would really put a chill on free speech and free press at this college," the journalism teacher said. She added, however, that she wishes that the editor and photographer had gotten the transcript and fee receipt in a more forthright manner.
Norm Schneider, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Community College District, said district rules and federal and state laws require that all transcripts, even those of student government leaders, remain private unless a student authorizes their release. "Even if it belonged to Ronald Reagan, President of the United States and the most public person in the country, those transcripts would be privileged information. (Quesada's) records are her own and nobody else's," he said.
Diane Lucero, public information officer for the district, said the charges were filed against Flores by Rudy Valles, dean of student services. Valles could not be reached for comment Monday.
The disciplinary review committee--an administrator, a teacher and a student--will make a recommendation to college President Arthur Avila within five days and then he has five more days to make a decision. Avila on Monday said that he considers the charges very serious and would study them carefully but that he did not want to possibly prejudice the matter by commenting further.
Expulsion would block Flores from attending any of the nine colleges in the Los Angeles district, Avila said. But Flores could appeal to the district's board of trustees and take the matter to court.