Even if one is only tangentially aware of campus politics, it is not difficult to see that the relationship between the Campus Times and the Students’ Association (SA) Government is strained at best and aggressively confrontational at worst.
It is only natural; we are students living in an age where journalism has increasingly become a vigilant watchdog: quick to chase any immediate instinct of abnormal action, good or bad. And, understandably and respectably, the Campus Times has followed this trend and asked increasingly probing questions of SA Government: from fact-checking the Spring 2016 elections to covering the day-to-day actions of each branch. This has been met with both praise and outrage, from both those within and outside SA Government.
Criticizing SA Government is not a new thing. It has always been a valid target for criticism and controversy. We need this check from outside. Whether it be through the CT or not, the voices of students should be heard, and SA should thrive on the demand that it continue to do better. As a current SA senator and a former editor with the Campus Times, I am not asking students to stop being critical of our campus government,
However, I am asking that your criticisms have nuance.
On both sides, I have watched students at the Senate table take CT criticism as a personal affront, just as I have watched the CT vie to unmask SA Government in ways that make it difficult to argue that there are not personal biases under the reporting. The anger and offense goes both ways—we’re all students and we’re all people—and I myself have been a culprit of it. I will not deny that I have taken CT criticisms of Senate too personally and unleashed such emotions in ways that were far from productive. I’m not proud of it.
On the other hand, if the CT is truly committed to the truth and to relaying both sides of a story, it has not done so with SA Government. Again, I do not believe that the newspaper’s criticism is unfair. But I do believe that its continued focus on the negative and astounding refusal to report on productive SA Government efforts is disingenuous to its readers.
The weekly Senate Summary is a positive step. But having seen a CT reporter at almost every Senate meeting this year, I find it both surprising and unnerving that there has been little to no coverage of, to name a few examples, the Student Life Committee’s town hall on campus climate and subsequent legislation, the Campus Service Committee’s work on promoting accessibility and disability awareness on campus, and the rewriting and overhaul of the SA Constitution, which began in September.
Welliora, the combined executive and legislative project to promote mental health awareness, benefitted immensely from the series of articles the CT published on it last semester. The newspaper documented the campaign from start to finish. But when I asked the CT to consider covering my own initiatives, it seemed to refuse because such projects had yet to amount to anything.This seems to be the case with the lack of coverage on other initiatives. I understand that results matter far more than just efforts, but the lack of coverage also continues the narrative that SA Government does nothing. Like I said, we are far from efficient or effective, but it is disingenuous to say that we are not working to change that.
Conversely, to those in SA Government, we need to be more respectful and accepting of criticism and work to not take it so personally. We also need to cease the discussion of the idea that the CT is beholden to us because it is SA funded—our campus is one of the few that does not content-check its newspapers prior to publication, and we must continue this to maintain the sanctity of freedom of press on our campus. It is outrageous that members, albeit only in small numbers, of our government have suggested defunding the Campus Times solely becaue it publishes things we disagree with.
There needs to be effective change on both sides in order to make the relationship between SA Government and the CT a productive one, rather than a confrontational one. I do not mean that SA Government and the CT have to get along or even work together. The Campus Times should not stop questioning SA—it is not PR for us, but we all know that far more people read and write to the CT than go to Senate meetings or reach out to SA leadership with their concerns.
The Campus Times is the institution by which SA Government actions either get off the ground through student support or get revamped due to student opposition. Both SA Government and the CT are fundamental to our campus, and both serve a common goal of amplifying the voices of students. We must step back and consider our actions, past and future, and ask how we can change to truly benefit the student body—with nuanced legislation and nuanced reporting.