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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

April 26, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Editorial: Withholding information from media hurts public

The free flow of information is one of the hallmarks of a strong democracy, especially when leaders are transparent with the public and the media.

But the unfortunate reality is that many leaders and politicians err on the side of withholding information from journalists. The Trump administration has displayed an unwillingness to be transparent with the public. Administrators at Ithaca College have acted similarly by ignoring Ithacan reporters’ requests for interviews and information on many occasions.

It is the nature of a private institution for administrators to be less forthcoming about disclosing information to the public or to journalists about the student body, staff, faculty and operations. The college administration has a history of taking this policy further than necessary — such as withholding the results of campus climate surveys, basic information about the college’s restructuring of its compensation distribution for staff and administrators, and accepted-student data by school. The Office of Human Resources — which is headed by Brian Dickens, who has not responded to multiple requests from The Ithacan for information throughout the semester — has been ignoring requests for comment for nearly two months on numerous issues, including the compensation restructuring, administrative job postings and staffing of the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management.

It is in the public interest for officials to be more communicative and be held accountable. Withholding information hurts the public by leaving it uninformed and in the dark. If the college is facing a problem, whether in enrollment or with finances, the community has a right to be aware. Having a more informed community could improve collaboration across campus to address these issues.

This pattern of withholding information presents a particularly troubling reality for journalists at the college who need open channels of communication and information disclosure to hold those in power accountable — especially as this is part of their education and training.

Being a private institution does not excuse administrators from failing to comply with journalists and withholding information. Transparency is an important factor in creating a collaborative environment, a goal the college has constantly been working to achieve. If the college is truly dedicated to collaboration between constituencies, it must recognize that withholding information is the antithesis of achieving this goal.