Letter to the editor: Student press not the enemy

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I wish to express my sincere thanks to our intrepid student press for their efforts to encourage greater transparency on our campus, particularly within student and faculty organizations. Unfortunately, however, the hope engendered by our student press is more than offset by my disappointment that we, as an institution, have chosen to sidle up to opacity and wait for attorneys and lawmakers to either compel our transparency or reaffirm our current opaque practices. One outcome confirms our cowardice, and the other further enables our dysfunction. Either way we lose.

I find our situation especially disheartening given the fact that we are an institution founded on the principles of a liberal arts education. Liberal arts being, of course, the knowledge & skills necessary for the preservation of our freedom and liberty, with free speech being a cornerstone of that freedom. Like so many freedoms, it seems like everyone loves free speech as long as they agree with what is being expressed, but hates it when it is used to express a position they disagree with. It’s a two-edged sword, but one our society has long recognized is far more desirable and just than a single-edged blade that swings at the sole behest of those in power.

I sympathize with our student and faculty councils and leaders who seek to maintain a degree of control in their meetings by restricting attendance. That’s just natural, and it does make things less chaotic and more relaxed. But surely it has been shown over and over again that the opacity created by restricting attendance and refusing the press only serves to breed mistrust and suspicion. I hope, as citizens of a free society we recognize the value of transparency, especially within institutions such as ours that are publicly funded.

And so I encourage and implore our student and faculty organizations to open their meetings to their constituents and to the press, and to do so freely without waiting to be compelled. In many years of dealing with our student press I have never found them to be unfair, even when I have disagreed with their message. They are certainly not the enemy, and neither is transparency. It is opacity and darkness that we should fear and avoid.

It is my hope and belief that most of our students and most of our faculty, within themselves, embrace the ideals embodied in transparency. To test that assumption, I call on our student press to conduct polls of students and of faculty to better ascertain the true prevailing attitude on our campus. Or better yet, for faculty and student organizations to call for a general vote of their members on this question. We do have a choice, and our collective choices define us as an institution of higher education. We can continue to be known as the school that held out against transparency, or we can be the university that overcame fear and freely chose transparency and the principles of freedom.

Professor Bill Christensen
Professor of Business Management
Dixie State University