GUEST COLUMN: FA President Laura Frey gives clarification to editorials
I wanted to provide some additional insight to the “Muffled Media” editorial published in the August 26th edition as well as the “Misinformation” editorial on August 29, 2011. It was made apparent to me late Tuesday evening (August 23rd) in an open, frank student conversation that there were unanswered questions on a number of topics related to the August 22nd work stoppage, the filed Temporary Restraining Order on the FA, faculty contract issues, and university finances.
I appreciate the time this student took to enlighten me. This conversation led to scheduling two Q & A sessions (August 24 and August 26).
Prior to leaving my office for the first Q & A session, I was contacted by a regional television station for an interview about this event. Since I did not see this Q & A session as a media event, I responded that I was not holding interviews with press before or after.
There was no attempt to hide any information from the press before, during, or after this Q & A session. Although, perhaps short-sighted, my reason for having no press was simply to provide a safe-haven for CMU students to get accurate information. I did have a number of students approach me after the Wednesday Q & A session, thanking me for not having press as they felt it contributed to students being more open with their questions and comments.
As I was preparing to leave the auditorium after this session late Wednesday evening, I was asked for a news story and I declined.
However, I immediately stated my willingness to sit down and talk for at least an hour or more in the near future with CM Life and discuss any content presented at this session. (Prior to the recent events, I also offered to sit down and talk with CM Life reporters.)
I was pressed to allow CM Life to write a story, so I indicated that a general article about this event was fine (and I see that one was printed on August 26th). I continued to receive pressure at nearly at 10:15 p.m. on Wednesday for a more detailed story.
I explained that I declined 3 previous individuals who wanted a news story at this event and despite being pressured, I was going to stay consistent with my response. I repeated my willingness to sit down in the near future for a longer news interview. I did get pressure to do a story and it is true that I became frustrated. The statement of my hostility is a matter of one’s perception. What is clear to me from this event is that CMU students are concerned about the quality of their education at this institution. During this event, CMU students asked excellent questions and were insightful in their shared comments.
I held a 2nd Q & A session on Friday, August 26th to review the preliminary injunction and provide insight to participants on what happened in court earlier that day.
Before I started this session I was approached by members of the FA Bargaining Team who wanted to thank the audience, primarily students for their support and they wanted to do this off-the-record. I had not started my Q & A session. I stated to the group this intent. I was immediately asked what I was trying to hide by reporters who were present. I responded that I had nothing to hide and restated the intent of my colleagues to say thank you. There continued to be a challenge of me trying to hide something. I then asked the group for a short delay in getting started and spoke with my colleagues in the hall. Since it was evident that they were not going to be able to personally thank the session participants off-the-record, they asked me to speak for them. I returned to the auditorium and started the Q & A session. In my view, the “Misinformation” editorial on August 29th is a mischaracterization of the situation. No one was banned or asked to leave any part of what I intended to and subsequently shared with the audience. Once again in this session there were excellent questions and insightful comments.
I now fully understand that when I gather with students in the future to answer questions it could very likely turn into a press event. It is likely that anyone who is with me and wants to provide comments also understands this reality. As the current FA President, I am continuing to learn the best way to provide students with avenues to ask questions. I intend to answer your questions as I did last Wednesday and again on Friday. I also intend to provide students with accurate information. Thank you CMU students for supporting the faculty. On behalf of the CMU Faculty Association, we think CMU students are AWESOME!
Dr. Laura Frey, CMU FA President