Jour Board calls for transparency

By: OWU Journalism Board

As members of the Ohio Wesleyan Journalism Student Board, we strive to uphold the Journalism Code of Ethics–one of the staples of this code being to report the truth and to minimize harm while doing so. It is never a reporterā€™s goal to misquote or exploit comments made; in fact, it is the exact opposite. As journalists we strive to understand. The decision to leave students out of the November 16 faculty and staff meeting is something we cannot comprehend.

Based on the precedence set by Verne Edwards, students at Ohio Wesleyan deserve to know what is discussed at faculty and staff in meetings. We understand the right of faculty to issue an executive session, however it must be justified. In this instance, the faculty neglected to conduct such a session yet still denied the entry of students.

True transparency between the university and students is hard enough to come by. Itā€™s imperative that students are not barred from attending the meetings in which their education is discussed.Ā  Itā€™s understandable for faculty members to want to be able to speak freely, but students do not need to be excluded for this to occur.

A faculty meeting is news. A faculty meeting in which students are excluded is news. As journalists it is not only our duty, but our passion to cover such events. Those who happen to be subjects of an issue do not have the right to determine whether or not it is newsworthy.

One thought on “Jour Board calls for transparency”

  1. Readers of this editorial and the earlier coverage about the faculty meeting need to understand background issues. First, faculty meetings have always been, and still are, private meetings under the Faculty Handbook. Thus, it requires a motion to permit ā€œvisitorsā€ to attend. It has been a custom to permit the student representatives of WCSA and a Transcript reporter to attend the meetings except in the rare situations in which the faculty separately votes for an ā€œexecutiveā€ session.

    New information came to the faculty that called into question whether or not that custom should continue as to the Transcript reporter. It was made clear to the faculty at the October meeting, that permitting the Transcript reporter to attend turned the private meeting into a fully ā€œpublicā€ meeting. Specifically, the faculty learned of a new agreement between the Transcript and the local newspaper whereby the Transcript reporter effectively functioned as a reporter to the local newspaper. As a result, in a dramatic change from the past, faculty found detailed reports of specific comments made by individual faculty in the next morningā€™s local newspaper. In addition, it also became clear that recent technological changes to more on-line reporting meant that even absent this relationship, meant that faculty comments had an even larger ā€œpublicā€ audienceā€”that of the entire internet world.

    Given these recent changed circumstances, the editorialā€™s reference to Professor Verne Edwards is inapt. When he forged the courtesy relationship between the faculty and the Transcript decades ago, the sole outlet was in a paper version of the paper. Thus, the audience for the coverage was a small and targeted audienceā€”students, staff, and faculty on-campus. Yes, local residents could also read the news, but detailed descriptions of faculty comments did not appear the morning after faculty meetings in the local newspaper, or obviously to a world-wide audience.

    Unfortunately at this weekā€™s meeting, it did not occur to the faculty to distinguish between admitting the WCSA representatives who are our studentsā€™ formal representatives as opposed to the Transcript reporterā€”the motion to admit ā€œvisitorsā€ included both. Had that distinction been made I feel confident that the WCSA representatives would have been permitted to stay. As the Transcriptā€™s own coverage makes clear, the ONLY concerns expressed by faculty had to do with this dramatic change in the coverage of faculty meetings.

    Although I voted to admit the Transcript reporter to our meeting, I strenuously support my colleaguesā€™ right to decide otherwise as a perfectly reasonable measure to return faculty meetings to what they used to beā€”a place where faculty could discuss issues without finding that discussion on the front page of the local newspaper or on the internet. As mentioned, I personally feel confident that the WCSA representatives will be able to attend future faculty meetings. As for the Transcript reporters, they can engage in journalism without being in attendance through a classic journalistic techniqueā€”interviewing the participants in newsworthy events.

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