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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

July 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Student Government Association recommends media policy repeal

Dear President Rochon,

Included with this correspondence, you will find a resolution, passed by the Student Government Senate, entitled “New Media Policy Repeal.” It is in direct response to the new policy which was announced last week creating a system for student media outlets to reach members of the Administrative Assembly. The resolution was considered by the full Senate, and was passed by a vote of 17 in favor, two opposed, and one abstention.

It is the opinion of the Senate that this policy, while not necessarily malicious in intent, gives the administration an unnecessary level of authority over student publications at the college. Student publications serve, as they do outside of higher education, as a watch-dog of administrative policies. By limiting access to the 84 top members of the college’s administration, the institution effectively places a gate keeper between themselves and students, allowing the college to “sit” on a story that it sees as potentially damaging. Whether the institution intends it or not, the college has given itself authority to decide if an article can be published in a credibly sourced way. While I am certain the current administration would not use the policy in this manner, it is hypothetically possible for an administrator to exert an alarming level of control over student publications.

It has been argued that this policy will mirror the real world. But in our opinion, this is a false equivalency. If the parallel is a government, there are many different sources, moving parts and agendas that a reporter has at their finger tips to access. If the parallel is a corporation, there is rarely an independent newspaper devoted to covering that corporation. In addition, if a story is written about a corporation other organization, there are a number of sources who can be spoken to if PR reps decline comment. In the system we have now established, the institution can effectively block information from reaching the paper in its entirety. Few organizations can block coverage unilaterally in the way that the college has given itself the authority to.

We also find this argument not to square with the fact that this policy exempts class projects. If a journalism student is writing an article, don’t we want them to experience the same real world challenges that we subject The Ithacan, WICB, Buzzsaw, 360, and ICTV to? It would appear that the only difference is that articles from student publications will actually be published.

Student Government Association has remained committed to ensuring a robust, two-way line of communication between students and institutional leadership. This dialogue is important and valuable. By placing a mediator, however well intentioned, between our primary sources of information on the college, this policy will be another step in the wrong direction for this continued discourse. It is for these reasons stated above, that we ask for you to consider this letter resolution, and listen to the calls to revert this policy.

Rob Flaherty, Student Body President, and John Vogan, Class of 2014 Senator.