What’s going on at Queens? This is a question many reasonable students would ask. After all, one has a right to know what current events are happening and the status of projects worked on by the administration, faculty and staff of a campus he or she pays over $30,000 a year to study at.
Yet students are left in the dark about the present affairs of the University because they are barred from attending the biannual campus update presentation.
President Pamela Davies refused to allow reporters from the Chronicle–the voice of the students–in addition to the students themselves to attend the event. Several senior faculty and staff, including Dean of Students John Downey and English professor Michael Kobre, agreed with the President when asked about their position.
The reasoning behind the interdiction was that it was directed toward faculty and staff to discuss matters of little import to the student body.
An active, informed student body is the soul and driving force of an academic institution. One pursues higher education to become an informed citizen who actively participates in the government and civic affairs around him. This mission is compromised when the signal is sent that not only are you forbidden to hear the state of the campus, but you are too incompetent to handle the topics presented to your superiors.
Not to mention that students pay a lot of money to attend Queens. Tuition money helps to pay the salary of those very faculty and staff receiving these privileged updates.
Students are supposed to be mollified by the availability of the annual State of the University address for public attendance. The two presentations, however, deal with completely different topics. The State of the University features presidential commentary on the goals of the University. Opening this event to the public is appropriate and commendable. Students, as the school’s main constituency, have the inalienable right to knowledge about the direction in which the institution will be taken in the upcoming year.
But the buck doesn’t stop there. It is imperative that students be allowed to attend the campus update.
The administration, as well as the faculty and staff, are ultimately held accountable to the student body. Without sufficient cognizance of the actual progress made in fulfilling the goals outlined in the State of the University and the general condition of the campus as a whole, students become ignorant in the midst of an acclaimed bastion of education and knowledge. They are no longer able to hold their professors and the administration – their servants and leaders – to the standard of excellence which they have come to expect from their alma mater.
Some staff are ostensibly sympathetic to the student cause, suggesting that a similar update event be held exclusively for students, just as the current practice is to open the speech exclusively to faculty and staff. The inherent inequality in such a proposition is insulting. Separate but equal has never been considered fair. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the same information will be shared with the students as that put forth at the campus update.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a free press. A free media with the ability to report material pertinent to its audience is the symbol of a free society and the flow of information is vital to a healthy community. When it is censored or otherwise controlled, the population suffers.
The Queens Chronicle and any news publication is no exception. After all, as Downey said, “A newspaper is a newspaper, even on a college campus.”