Some students less equal than others

OCCC’s Student Life office says its purpose on campus is to “ … provide a variety of programs and services that support students in their pursuit of a successful higher education experience.”

However, recently, they have done just the opposite — at least when it comes to journalism students.

On May 28, Student Life Director Erin Logan informed the Pioneer faculty adviser in an email that the Student Life office had changed its procedures and would no longer grant in-person interviews to the Pioneer staff writers or News Writing students regarding their assignments or class-assigned stories.

In the email, Logan claimed the reasoning behind this discriminatory refusal of student services was a result of “ … a multitude of incidents of inaccurate reporting, misquotes, and reporters not properly identifying themselves.” She went on to say, “The number of requests for interviews has become burdensome, with no real benefit to the Office of Student Life or our events.”

In the email, Logan offered no specific instances to back up her blanket allegations.

To the best of their abilities, Pioneer staff members follow procedures and guidelines that reflect ethical and accurate reporting. This includes using voice recorders during interviews so reporters can refer back to confirm information.

Any time an individual tells us there was a misquote or wrong information given, the reporter listens to the recording to determine whether the claim is accurate. If there is a misquote or wrong information in the article, the Pioneer then promptly runs a correction or a follow-up story if need be — as all newspapers do.

However, during my time at the Pioneer, I’ve never known Student Life to report any incidents of misquotes or wrong information.

Logan’s compromise is that Student Life would answer any questions; however, student reporters would need to email all interview questions and could expect a response within five working days of the email having been received.

Logan sent the email with the backing of Academic Affairs Vice President Felix Aquino and Enrollment and Student Services Vice President Marion Paden. Both were carbon copied on the email.

This procedure is wrong on a number of levels. First, it is contradictory to what Student Life is supposed to stand for.

Student Life is there as a resource for students to be successful in their college experience, yet they are showing unfair treatment toward certain students.

Coincidentally, in the weeks prior to the email, Logan had asked the Pioneer to hold a story about a student who three weeks earlier had been reported to the campus police for making a threatening statement toward his classmates.

In the spirit of timeliness and being a watchdog for the public, the Pioneer chose to run the story, complete with the student’s name and photo. In a later Student Newspaper Advisory board meeting, we were told by one of Logan’s supportive vice presidents that the Pioneer had no business running the story with the name and photo of the student. Not long after, the new procedure email was sent — with his approval.

A second reason the procedure is wrong has to do with the nature of reporting news.

Email interviews with a five-day turnaround is, at best, a lackluster method of supplying information. The Pioneer handles both daily and weekly deadlines that would not be met if information is not received in a timely manner. Almost a week later is not a timely manner.

In addition, the Pioneer is a lab where journalism and broadcasting students gain hands-on experience essential to their career path. The lab provides a real-life learning experience. No professional reporter conducts email interviews unless it just can’t be avoided and those circumstances are few.

And the worst thing is: all students will miss the opportunity to know about many upcoming student events because Student Life is unwilling to interview with the student newspaper about any event, even Welcome Week or New Student Orientation.

But, never fear OCCC students. Despite being basically blacklisted by the office set up specifically to help students, Pioneer student reporters will continue to provide quality news for you.

In the meantime, Student Life should rethink what its mission is and be more willing to work with students — all students.

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