SPEAKING FREELY


Posted by Professor Ellen Mayock, in response to the concern that student media are not being used properly as community forums


Student Publications

Jacob Geiger, Managing Editor of The Ring-Tum Phi, has logically posed the question of why some of us have chosen not to use the Phi as our forum. 

Although students tend to have only a four-year history with a school publication, staff and faculty members develop a much longer history.  Bad experiences from earlier and differently-composed editorial staffs remain in individual and collective memories.  I applaud the efforts of The Phi to rebuild after the 2005-2006 school year, during which it produced several very public, very negative issues that had long-lasting effects, probably more long-lasting than any student of the general population or student writer or editor would know.  In the meantime, the open forum of Speaking Freely that has the capacity to publicize a broad array of opinions is effective and timely, and, I might add, is encouraging real intellectual debate.

In my particular case, I spent the 2005-2006 school year being called a variety of misogynistic names by Phi writers and editors. This led to even more disheartening forms of discrimination from several different sectors, including two other student publications.  In one of my interactions with a Phi editor, he misrepresented his purpose for speaking with me and then never allowed me to finish a complete sentence as we spoke.  The article that resulted was shoddy journalism of the kind we all know so well by now.  In that instance, I used the Letter to the Editor forum to respond to the article.  In the end, I wished I hadn't because it in no way put an end to the negative interactions and hostile climate.

Two weeks after that interaction, I received an e-mail from a student who expressed interest in taking my Women's Studies class the following term (two months later) and requested that I send her a copy of my syllabus.  I did not know that she was an editor from another student publication and that she was lying about wanting to take my class.  She later wrote a long piece in which she attacked the syllabus for being too liberal and for not including canonical Women's Studies authors such as Susan B. Anthony.  (Note:  Susan B. Anthony was the very first reading listed for the very first day of class.)  This was at its most innocent a case of careless research and reporting.  At its core, however, it was a lie.  The student lied by not representing herself as a journalist, lied about wanting to enroll in the class, and lied about the content of the syllabus.  This type of lie is the most harmful kind that I associate with hate speech and a hostile climate.  At that point, I brought the case to the attention of Dean Watkins and the EC President, asking them to raise the issue with the Media Board.

By late winter, 2006, I decided not to pick up a student paper again so that I could still like and interact well with students in class and on campus. It was not until someone actually brought me a copy of The Trident Bracket issue--two years after purposefully avoiding exposure to harmful articles in the student press--that I broke my rule and saw similar public ravages. As many of my colleagues have said, THIS IS NOT JOURNALISM.

In the most current issue of The Trident, the writer and news editor quoted something I had said at the RESPECT forum. Nevertheless, my name was listed as "Caroline [sic] Mayo." Carolyne Mayo is the Administrative Assistant for Athletics. So, even when writers were not being purposefully hurtful, they were being careless with quotes and sources. This is no way to augment public trust in such publications. If I am linking The Phi to The Trident, it is because of my experiences from the 2005-2006 school year.  If I am linking student publications to a hostile climate on this campus, it is for the reasons cited above, along with others that many other people have already brought to light.

Student publications naturally turn over in leadership.  The Phi leaders of today are not the leaders of two years ago.  But, given the lack of oversight of the student media, the lack of training of some student journalists, and lack of public reprisal for wrongdoing, it's hard to know whom to trust and when.


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