Letter from the Editor: the story behind our AS coverage and the interference we've faced
It's the end of my first semester as Editor-in-Chief and I have gained a much broader perspective of how things should be run than when I was a section editor and staff writer. This semester has been me, as well as my staff, finding our balance and seeing what works and what doesn't work, what stories our audience cares about and what they don't. One thing that students might not care about as much is how our school is being run, particularly by our student government — the AS. If they knew more though, their investment level may go up. This semester in particular, we haven't covered much of what's been happening with the AS, and it's not because they haven't been up to anything interesting. They have made it a priority to solve the homeless student problem and provide assistance for them, put on a pretty successful homecoming week raising school spirit, and more.
It has been difficult however to acknowledge these accomplishments as well as let's face it, some shortcomings. And not because the AS board members haven't been forthcoming. For instance, Alexa Brechensbauer and Amber Winter were very helpful and informative with all of their plans for homecoming week. They walked me through their entire process and let me know of any meetings. Jesse, the AS President has been transparent through the good and the bad. The only roadblock has been the advisor, Nancy Grass, who says she prides herself on being upfront and having an open door policy. However, when trying to contact AS we were told that in order to interview them, we had to send the interview questions prior so that they can review them and essentially prepare for them; a less than ideal situation for a journalist.
These kind of roadblocks have been ever-present. Most recently we looked into doing a possible story on action item that we saw on one of the AS meeting agendas, to approve $25,000 for a Nutcracker production for Professor Tahvildaran and the PPI (Public Policy Institute) who made the proposal. The story was made into an assignment on our content manager and if a writer were to find out more details of the story, then we would pursue it.
Fast forward to the presidential forums when I was approached by Grass that we not write a negative story and "pick on the AS" the following week. The fact that she knew about a possible story meant that she was told by someone either in the class or formerly, which is not only a breach of privacy, but also unethical to confront someone and interfere with a story, a first amendment right for freedom of the press.
This brings me to Nov. 28, Saturday, when the Photo Editor and some staff photographers were confronted at the door of the nutcracker by stage manager Liz Phillips, who told them that the only one they would be allowed in would be if she received the photos for approval as well as a promise that they wouldn't be associated with any negative story. This order came from higher up, she claims. All of this for a story that has been floating in the ether, not even touched until all of the random interference. What did either the AS, Grass or Tahvildaran have to hide? This became the interesting part of the story.
All of the dirty details will be in the news story, but to sum it up AS funded $25,000 for a Nutcracker performance put on the Westside Ballet, the guild of which Tahvildaran is the President. He submitted a proposal and convinced the board members that it would be beneficial to students.
They went along with it, assuming that it should likely benefit students. The performance was never widely publicized throughout SMC, and tickets were $40 a pop. Student tickets were promised and were to be distributed to the SMC community, shown in the AS Agenda on Oct. 19, but alas none were given out by Tahvildaran and the PPI per their agreement.
Now the AS board members are figuring out a resolution for the broken promise, but the part that doesn't make sense is the interference. Different Corsair staff members have been contacted, including the Multimedia Editor and the A&E Editor, all being assured that students were involved in the production and that no interference was known about or intended.
If the AS board members want to continue to receive coverage (they have regularly asked us to publicize stuff in the past), there has to be clear communication and transparency and an openness that hasn't been present thus far. The Corsair staff will continue to do their job and investigate anything that has to do with the student body, bringing you news that you may not always care about, but that you most likely didn't know about.