On silence and accountability
Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
Sept. 10, 2013
Last semester, complaints were filed against The Sun Star for two articles we published. The first article was a satirical piece for our annual April Fool’s issue, The Fun Star, that mocked past satires about giant penis buildings by referencing a vagina building under construction instead. The second article reported on the hateful messages being written on the UAF Confessions Facebook page. The complainant, a professor on campus, said that the articles promoted rape culture and sexual harassment.
We were then discussed by the university’s Faculty Senate and investigated by the Office of Diversity and Equal Oppurtunity.
Halfway through the summer I found out that a class I was registered in and looking forward to was to be taught by that particular professor. I sent the teacher an email to ask if I could take the class without fear of any related bias. The professor never replied.
When I asked my question again on the phone a few days later, the professor told me only that I should be receiving an email from the Dean of Students, and then hung up.
When I met with the Dean of Students, Don Foley, he advised me to take the online section of the course. My education was not as important as a professor behaving unprofessionally. I ended up dropping the class, despite it being the last elective I need for my degree.
If this is the price of Journalism, the price of reporting the truth, of writing satire, of freedom of speech, then it is time to re-evaluate our current expectations, perceptions and understanding of the role of media.
If the price of students voicing their opinions to the dismay of faculty and staff is a limit to our educational rights, it is time for the system to reevaluate its role as a university.
Because the fact is, students are often left out of discussions regarding the system– its courses, offices and policies– despite the policies– despite the consequences of those discussions directly affecting them.
In this case, the complainants never spoke to any of the students involved, nor did the Faculty Senate, which met to discuss us during finals week last May.
The Senate sent us a letter asking us to permanently remove the satirical article from The Sun Star website and to redact the student names appearing in the screen shots accompanying the UAF Confessions article. The letter stated the students were “unfortunate or foolish” to appear on the page, despite the page being public and the commenters being of legal age.
They said their requests were in line “with our mutual goals of high standards for journalistic excellence that serve the educational interests of the UAF community.”
The Sun Star does have high journalistic standards and we do serve the educational interests of UAF. Students should and need to be informed–but not just about the issues the university sees fit.
Many students are hesitant to speak out against the university because they are either planning on attending graduate school, applying for a job or working for a department and are afraid of retaliation.
Students should stop being intimidated and the university needs to start being held more accountable.
It is our job as your student newspaper to encourage the latter and give you more of the former.
So speak up, and speak out.
And welcome back to school.