A plan is currently in place to remove the Broadcast, Internet and Publications Board out from under the supervision of the Student Life Committee.
What some might find surprising is that this removal has been initiated not by BIP, but by the Student Life Committee. The idea first began bouncing between the Board and SLC two years ago when TKS introduced its Flunk Day issue with a controversial headline that some students, faculty and administration found offensive.
“It was at that point that we really looked into the BIP constitution to determine what powers, exactly, we had,” said Lori Haslem, current chair of the Broadcast, Internet and Publications Board. “Our constitution labeled us as a subcommittee of SLC, and so we began to question where the authority really was. If we decided one thing, would SLC be able to overturn it? We wanted a set of clearly defined boundaries.”
The next year, when then TKS editor-in-chief Tom Fucoloro wrote a column about a SLC meeting that called into question the issues censorship and journalistic integrity, BIP was again forced to wonder whether or not it held sole authority to deal with the issue. After bringing in outside journalistic advisors and going through a thorough investigative process, it was decided that journalistic integrity had been maintained, but both SLC and BIP came to recognize the need to determine who was in charge of what.
In response, the Student Life Committee has put forth a motion to set up the Broadcast, Internet and Publications Board as a standing committee, answerable to the full faculty instead of to SLC.
“I would say that this is more a recognition of how things have actually operated—in most ways BIP has functioned separately from SLC for some time now, other than their reports coming to us instead of to the faculty,” said Assistant Professor of Computer Science Don Blaheta, member of the Student Life Committee. “In addition, since SLC is the committee that formally approves Student Activity Fee budgeting at the end of every academic year, it was seen by many people, on SLC, BIP, and elsewhere, as a good idea to introduce a bit more separation between SLC and BIP to reduce conflicts
The conflict of interest referred to related to the manner in which BIP currently requests funds from SLC. Each of the media-oriented organizations on campus are introduced as a line item with an individual budget. This system gives SLC the opportunity to retaliate against an organization in terms of budget because it is able to see how much BIP recommends for each individual group.
“In the future, I can see BIP simply giving SLC a bottom line budget,” said Vice President of Student Development and Dean of Students Xavier Romano. “It should be stressed that there has never been retaliation of any kind between SLC and BIP through the budget, but giving BIP autonomy and the ability to simply introduce a budget as a bottom line is taking the safer path.” Romano also commented that the idea of giving BIP autonomy was first considered and approved by SLC last spring, and that there has been no opposition of any kind to the idea.
“The question of operational oversight being in the hands of BIP was always a given,” said Romano.
“With this change we’re also looking to change BIP’s image,” said Haslem. “We want to stress the dual role of enforcing sanctions and protecting freedom of speech on campus. We want to act as a buffer for the campus voice.”
As it stands, the BIP board is currently comprised of four voting members, two faculty, theater professor Neil Blackadder and Haslem, and two students, seniors Brian Normile and Jenny Davis, as well as several non-voting ex-officio media heads.
“In the past we had five voting members, which is a number we’d like to return to. It was cut down when teachers were stretched too thin between various committees and the college as a whole cut back on the sizes of various boards,” said Haslem.
Overall, Haslem sees this as an opportunity to stress that BIP acts on behalf of the student voice.
“When the most recently debated article about Heimann Court was written,” said Haslem, “it was obvious to us that there was a link between the error in judgment and the fact that TKS is understaffed. BIP managed to obtain a way to fund more student work hours for TKS to use to employ students and we’re continuing to work on recruiting more funds.”
In the end, the removal of BIP from SLC should solve several problems. The conflict of interest regarding funds will no longer be an issue, BIP will be able to more effectively govern itself and vote itself through a deadlock, and BIP will have the freedom to more directly impact its constitutional charges by bringing motions directly to the faculty.
“We’re unique in that we’re the only committee to currently have its very own constitution,” said Haslem, “and we plan on using this opportunity to fulfill our charges.”
“Technology is changing so quickly,” said Romano, “that we’re struggling to catch up. TKS has a cyber-form up and running; Catch is looking to do the same. I’m hopeful that this autonomy will give BIP the adaptability to govern itself in response to the changes that the different forms of media on campus are going through.”