My final session on Friday was a little different than the others I’ve attended so far. Yes, there was a leader of it, a Brian Thompson from Flagler College, but the point of the session was for students in media organizations at private colleges (and universities, in our case) to share their troubles dealing with administrators, faculty and other issues that arise on campus.
After going around the room and sharing our school’s biggest problem (which ranged from “our school of communications won’t acknowledge us” to “our dean of students took over as temporary athletic director and then hand-selected the committee that is hiring for the permanent position which he is also seeking”). Thompson really summed it up well when he said, “We are a bunch of mutts.”
It was really interesting seeing how everybody’s battles pretty much boiled down to the same thing: our stories can be bad PR for the institution, so people push back. Here were some of the basic conclusions that were reached in discussing how to deal with this phenomena:
- Small issues can quickly spiral into giant ones, so gently remind the school that giving information is a lot easier than dealing with upset and frustrated students
- Remind the school that by denying press access or censoring them, you’re teaching them one thing in the classroom and then something else in real life
- You have to get to know administrators
- Don’t just show up for bad news
- Develop non-adviser allies in faculty and administration
At Elon, I think one of the best arguments we could make to the administration if we encountered an issue would be to say, “Aren’t you proud of our (recently renewed) accreditation? Did we get that by creating a communications environment that didn’t adhere to a code of ethics approved by that board?”
Hopefully, that would be all it takes to set them on the right path once more.