November 29, 2020

Silence isn’t golden

This week The Journal wrote a story addressing concerns Media Center employees expressed about their job security. The story, including feedback from work-study students, part-time staffers and School of Communications faculty, does have one glaring omission — a response from the Webster administration is obviously missing.
Rest assured the absence of a quote from Interim Vice President William Kenneth Freeman, Provost Julian Schuster or even a full-time Media Center employee is not due to oversight or poor reporting from our staff. On multiple occasions, department heads and administrators were asked for interviews regarding student concerns about changes taking place in the Media Center. On each occasion, The Journal was sent away without a comment. On one occasion, Freeman cancelled a scheduled interview, stating he would now be unavailable until finals week.
Of course, schedules are busy this time of year, and we understand administrators play an important role in our university. Frankly, it would be slightly suspicious if President Elizabeth Stroble and her group of second-in-command VPs were always open to talk with students.
But questions of transparency and student right-to-know were raised in the reporting of this week’s front-page story. Our tuition money pays for these administrators’ jobs. The Journal thinks that fact alone would encourage Webster to seriously consider student concerns. Busy schedules are one thing, but total avoidance is another.
In the university’s social media guidelines, employees utilizing Twitter or Facebook accounts are encouraged to be honest and authentic. “We believe in transparency,” is clearly written and easily found on the Webster home website.
Where is the transparency for the Media Center? Students and staff told The Journal they were unable to comment or answer questions — this was a job for Freeman. If that is the policy then The Journal will respect procedure. But this system only works when administrators are willing to actually communicate. Employees won’t speak out of fear of policy enforcement, and administrators won’t speak because nobody forces them.
The social media policy also encourages faculty and staff to point out controversial issues surrounding Webster with facts and respect. When Media Center employees raised concerns, they said they were placed under a gag order and their job security was questioned. Perhaps the administration should remind themselves of their own policies.
The Journal will not back down from a story because a few key individuals involved refuse to comment. We believe that often a “no comment” speaks louder than a well-rehearsed public relations response.
Freeman and other administrators were unavailable or unwilling to comment at this time on the Media Center situation. We hope in the future Webster students will be able to have open conversation about real concerns in a productive and protected way. Until then, The Journal will continue presenting all the facts possible to the students, and keeping them informed of their university’s issues.

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