EDITORIAL: Facing Censorchip: Student voices stifled by superiors

The First Amendment should be a no-brainer at a university. Recently, however, officials have been suppressing the student voice in an attempt to protect them from student media.

Central Michigan Life has dealt with an increase in communication buffers between our reporters and our peers. We have watched student voices suppressed under the umbrella explanation of protecting their privacy.

To fairly and successfully report a story, it is essential we speak to many sources with interest in or knowledge of. Not only does this ensure that we’ve covered a broad scope of testimony and opinions, but it allows those involved to have their voices heard and their stories shared.

The biggest culprit of student voice suppression at Central Michigan University is within the athletics department. Regardless of our relationships with specific student-athletes, reporters must gain permission from athletics department administrators to contact them.

In order to gain access to our own student-athletes, reporters have to present sports information directors with a story's topic during the request. The nature of our requests have sometimes played a role in the department's decisions to make these student-athlete available for interviews, or not.

When players are made available, the majority of interviews are done with an SID chaperoning the conversation, creating anxiety for both parties.

When athletes are not made available, the most common reason for denial of interview is the best interest of the student athlete – as decided by the department.

Officials have explained the denials as a need to protect student-athletes from the student media.

Here at CM Life, we are students learning a craft, much like our student-athletes.

We are in class with you, walk the same halls and sidewalks as you, and wear the same school colors as you. We have friends who are athletes, Greeks and students of all departments and career aspirations.

Most of all, we are your peers.

Why is CMU protecting students from other students? To be fair, athletics isn't the only culprit.

Last week, CM Life received a letter from the national chapter of Phi Mu after interviewing a member of the CMU Rho Delta chapter. In it, the national president requested all media requests be directed toward the national chapter in Georgia.

The topic of the preceding interview was the benefits of Greek Life and its evolution over time at CMU.

By putting up these walls and censoring students – in athletics, Greek Life and other areas of campus – our leaders are failing the students they are supposed to be educating. The new lesson being taught by these officials within and outside the university construct is to shy away from potentially uncomfortable situations rather than act transparently and strategically.

We're not trying to embarrass or ruin the reputations of any member of our community, but we do want our stories to reflect reality. That includes not having cookie-cutter responses prepared by public relations professionals in replacement of student voice.

Residence halls choose whether to allow reporters to "solicit" their halls door-to-door each year, but each allows student-reporters freedom to canvas in the main lobbies and outside the hall.

Resident assistants receive tips on dealing with reporters. Rather than Residence Life denying access, it teaches staff members how to carry out a successful interview. When staff members aren't comfortable or familiar with a topic, they have the option of sending a reporter to a higher ranking person for the interview.

This is a better way to handle media requests.

Student-athletes and Greek students should also – and often do – receive media education, but then be allowed to represent themselves as adults.

The false sense of security and protection provided by organization officials is a restraint to the transition from college to the "real world."

Individual freedom of speech, as protected by the First Amendment, cannot be sacrificed for an organization's public image. This is a trend that needs to end before it gets any worse.

Reporters cannot continue to provide their community with quality service if the very people we work for aren't allowed to speak to us.

We're all adults here, capable of making our own decisions. It's time that we as students are treated as such.


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