Faculty: you need to talk

By: The Transcript Editorial Staff

At their Nov. 16 meeting, members of the faculty voted not to allow student representatives, including a Transcript reporter, into the room. Following the online publication of a story covering that decision–the cover story of tomorrow’s issue–many students, alumni and faculty began engaging in discussion on social media sites and in comment section of the story on The Transcript’s website. Some accusations were made, some facts were disputed and many members of the OWU community expressed their discontent. And the faculty needs to talk about it.

Let’s get this out of the way first: why are faculty upset about student presence in their meetings? The faculty are not enemies of the first amendment, they are not conspiracists or villains. In fact, plain student attendance at faculty meetings is not the issue at hand. Faculty are upset because OWU business, their business, has appeared in the Delaware Gazette on more than one occasion.

Since the first gathering in September, the Delaware Gazette has been publishing all Transcript coverage of the monthly faculty meetings. You can also find these two stories on The Transcript’s website. You see, The Transcript has a sharing agreement with the Delaware Gazette; any story or photo we publish, they have the right to use. And vice versa. It’s important to note here that even if the Delaware Gazette did not have the right to use our exact stories, any information published online would be available to them. If they wanted to write a story about the meetings using our online or print coverage as a source, they could. That’s how the media works.

Some members of the faculty are concerned that allowing Transcript reporters to cover the meetings, and thereby allowing the Gazette to do the same, might compromise the privacy of the forum: faculty will not be willing to share their real thoughts or feelings for fear of being quoted in a newspaper, and perhaps more importantly, OWU’s private dealings will be made public.

Faculty with this mindset believe that there should be an official meeting space for internal discussion. And they believe that that meeting space should be at the faculty meetings.

At The Transcript, we believe students should be given the privilege of knowing what the faculty decide in their meetings. We are as invested in this school as they are, and information between the two groups needs to be shared. That’s why we have the Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs (WCSA) to represent our interests to the faculty and administration. But we have The Transcript to keep the powers-that-be honest. Journalists represent the student body as much as WCSA does. And to only allow WCSA into the meetings would be to trade one administration for another.

Here’s the problem: faculty need to decide whether student representatives (all student representatives) can be allowed into the faculty meetings. And if they allow The Transcript, their meetings will be public, period.

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One Comment

  1. I saw the 11/20 editorial before seeing this one and have submitted a lengthy response to that editorial so rather than re-posting it in its entirety I will make the following comments.

    Although I voted to permit the Transcript reporter to be able to attend, I fully support my faculty colleagues’ right to decide otherwise—as a reasonable way to return the faculty meetings to what they had been prior to the recent dramatically different coverage of our meetings in great detail not only to the local newspaper but to the world-wide audience of the internet.

    In this editorial I am glad to see that the Transcript now acknowledges that the faculty does not have a problem with “plain student attendance” at its meetings. As your own coverage confirms, the only concern expressed by the faculty had to do with significant changes in the extent of the coverage of the faculty meetings by the Transcript. Unfortunately the motion to admit “visitors” included the WCSA representatives along with the Transcript reporter and it did not occur to the faculty at the time to make a distinction.

    I am also heartened to see that the Transcript now refers to students “knowing what the faculty decide in their meetings” as a “privilege,” not a right. Let’s make it clear once and for all that there are NO 1st Amendment rights at issue, nor could there be any given that OWU is a private institution and the 1st Amendment restricts the actions of the government.

    Despite the statement that students need to know what the faculty have “decided,” this editorial makes it clear that the Transcript is demanding much more than that. The Transcript wants the faculty to give up all rights to privacy to anything and everything that is said at the meetings. As this editorial makes explicit, the Transcript believes that the faculty MUST be willing to turn its meetings into fully “public” meetings to be reported in detail not only in the next day’s local newspaper but also to the world-wide audience of the internet. Nor will allowing the WCSA representatives, our students’ formal representatives, to attend the meetings satisfy the Transcript.

    The students with whom I have spoken this week do not agree with the Transcript’s position. They have understood why the faculty might prefer to have more privacy than what the Transcript demands. This brings into question the claim that the Transcript represents the students’ interests in this matter equally as do the WCSA representatives. That may be true as to some overlapping interests but the reality is that as reporters for a completely independent newspaper you have distinct self-interests– you want full, unrestricted access to everything that happens on campus.

    That is understandable. But it is also understandable to most that it is a legitimate concern on the part of faculty to maintain some privacy in our meetings yet permit our students to know what is going on in them—requiring a balancing of needs and rights as opposed to the Transcript’s demand that it be only the faculty that gives up its rights and that the faculty give up all of its rights.

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