By Melanie Perez
Let’s talk about transparency.
Everybody loves to throw that word around, tout it and claim it, but at the end of the day, it’s all about appearances. As long as it “seems” like you’re being transparent, then you’re in the clear, so it’s sometimes easier to appear transparent when you’re actually not.
But when we have an administration that is opaque at best – talking to us about certain issues, but never giving us the whole story – then what does that mean for us?
For many years, the administration has been relatively responsive to emails, agreeing to interviews and answering our questions, so that’s not the issue. The biggest problem with our administration is what students perceive as the “head in the sand phenomenon.”
Any time there’s a sensitive or controversial issue on campus, there’s radio silence on the part of the administration, everybody has to get his or her story straight, and there is rarely any overt indication that the issue is being addressed.
While students are not privy to the kind of information the administration has – a fact the administration has reminded me of multiple times – it seems like they are not truly understanding where we’re all coming from.
For example, a couple years ago when there was damage to the Israeli flag in Jeepers, we needed our administration to make a fuss for once. I understand keeping up appearances, not wanting to be in the mainstream media spotlight for something negative, not wanting to create an alarm on campus and not wanting to allege accusations that couldn’t explicitly be proven – all very political and sensitive considerations – but in acting in such a political manner, they’re losing touch with their students.
Quite a few of the students who remember the flag incident have already graduated, but I vividly remember the buzz around campus – deliberate vandalism was suspected, and Israeli students expressed fear for their safety. The cut in the flag was a straight line from the center of the Star of David to the end of the flag, a fact that led many students to be convinced that it was not accidental.
When The Equinox reached out for statements, we received different accounts from different people, and within a week, some statements had changed, making them all identical. Afterwards, there was nothing; we heard that Public Safety destroyed the flag, and then the matter was considered resolved.
How are we supposed to do our jobs as student journalists if the administration seems to be “handling” us? We’re not here to publish exposés about the school, we just want to be told the whole truth, we want to be spoken to, and we want to inform our community about what’s going on at our school.
More recently, we heard that the university is transitioning to a zero-based budgeting system. I assigned a writer to reach out to President Capuano and Provost Vodde, the two people in the administration I thought would be responsible for the budget. Although neither responded directly, we received an email from Angelo Carfagna, associate vice president for university communications. He directed us to University Provost Gillian Small, who granted us an interview in time for our deadline. It was a long route to get an answer.
The Equinox also reached out on this same issue to University College Dean Patti Mills and Dr. Samuel Raphalides, acting director of the school of criminal justice, political science, and international studies. They both directed us to other people in the administration whom they felt were better equipped to answer our questions.
Regarding the issue with the lead in our water, we reached out to the Vice President for Facilities and Auxiliary Services Richard Frick for information about what progress the school has made in bringing our lead levels down to the health department’s acceptable standard and he did not respond.
We’re a bridge between administration and students, between our small community and the outside larger community and between fact and speculation. When students have concerns, it’s our job to get more information on it. We’re the student voice, but we cannot do our jobs if people do not respond to our requests for information and interviews.
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