Discourse / Editorials / May 28, 2008

Freedom of the press

Since the Web site for The Knox Student is now updated regularly, I can keep apprised of the goings-on of my alma matter. I have to say what I have seen reported lately greatly disappoints me — not the reporting by TKS itself, but rather the events they are reporting, namely the actions by many in the administration (and often supported by students and faculty) who are trying to limit the debate and progress of concerned students on campus. It seems like many legitimate concerns by the student body are either being brushed aside or met with strong-arm tactics to prevent those issues from being truly heard and acted upon. This appears to be especially true of the actions against the reporters and staffers at The Knox Student, who are not being allowed to fully report upon the actions of the college.

I just got a graduate journalism degree from the University of Texas, a large state school funded primarily by state and federal money. As such, it is under a much higher level of scrutiny than private institutions such as Knox. For the last two years, I worked as a reporter for The Daily Texan newspaper and we were allowed into virtually every faculty and/or administration meeting we wanted to attend, as it is against the law for meetings to take place outside of the public’s eye in most circumstances. Likewise, if any reporter wanted to, he/she could place a freedom of information request and get access to any e-mail or public record of any administrator, staff or faculty member at the university, so long as they used work-related communications. In fact, that is exactly how one of our reporters got information about how UT’s financial aid department’s unscrupulous student lending practices, which led to the firing of the department’s director and a change in their rules.

Now Knox is different from the University of Texas in many ways. Certainly, it is much easier to schedule an appointment to meet with a dean or the president at Knox than it is at Texas. But Knox also is not under the same legal jurisdictions of a public university such as UT. It doesn’t have to abide by open meetings laws or freedom of information requests. However, because Knox encourages its students to own their college education, it should be as open as possible to student scrutiny.

“Knox is also an engaged place, where students actively participate in the governance of the College, and the issues of the day are openly — though respectfully — debated in and out of the classroom,” so says the fourth paragraph of the “About Knox” section of our college’s Web site. Now in my time as a reporter and editor at TKS, I found this credo to be upheld by most everyone at Knox. But it appears now that some are not being as open and as willing to let students participate in their education as the school’s Web site suggests. Since students (and in many ways alumni), not taxpayers, are the main “public” of Knox College, it is our collective responsibility to make sure Knox as an institution remains a place where students really are able to make a change in their own education, and that the our tag-line “We are Knox” is not simply a hollow PR slogan.

Julio Trujillo

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