The SMU administration typically has no control over The Daily Campus’ content. There is one exception to that rule: The mail-home summer edition. This issue is mailed home to all incoming freshmen, and in return for their mailing addresses, SMU gets to tell us what we can and cannot write. This began in 2007, when the administration became angry after the DC included an article about alcohol-related deaths in that year’s mail home edition.
Typically, their required oversight is not a problem. This summer, it was.
The theme for this mail home edition was The Centennial. We published 20 top 5 lists, adding up to 100 things the class of 2015 may not know about SMU.
Our politics editor, Jessica Huseman, who is serving as summer editor-in-chief while Ashley Withers, the typical editor-in-chief, is in Washington D.C., wrote an article for the “Top 5 Issues at SMU” section. It was about transparency of the Board of Trustees.
This article was immediately rejected by the administration. Specifically, by Lisa Webb the dean of students. We feel that the irony of this is obvious.
Here, Jessica responds to the deletion of her article from the mail home edition. The article has been published online, and it can be found here.
“I am extremely disappointed by the actions of Lisa Webb, the dean of students at SMU. While I understand her desire to keep negative portrayals of SMU out of the press, this goes too far and the irony is palpable.
The article says nothing new about the transparency of the board. It repeats the same calls for open board meetings posed by the United Methodist Church in the late 80s after the “death penalty” was instated, and the constant calls for openness repeated by The Daily Campus and SMU students alike since that time. Additionally, the article was not a one sided attempt by our paper to insult the board. We allowed Adriana Martinez, the student representative to the board, to author an opinion in disagreement which would have, and still will, be posted on our website.
The SMU administration cannot shield incoming freshmen from the knowledge that secrecy reigns at SMU. They will discover that as soon as they try to get basic questions answered. But that is exactly what they attempted to do in this instance.
I’ll let you ponder the irony of squashing an article about transparency on your own, but I would like to remark on what this says about the administration’s respect for student opinions.
SMU finds it necessary to read the content we write before we send it out to the incoming class. This is the only paper we do not have complete control on because they hope to shield incoming freshmen from the harsh reality that SMU is not a perfect school. But then, no school is perfect. Freshmen understand that. Just because they aren’t here yet does not mean they don’t understand that SMU, like every school they considered attending, has its own share of problems.
Just because, in this specific area, I have a negative view of SMU does not mean my opinion was not as valid as the praise for SMU that is on (what would have been) the page both before and after my opinion. Additionally, it calls for the same thing that the other opinions in the “Top 5 issues at SMU” page call for: improvement in certain aspects of SMU. Why is the change I call for different from the change that the student body vice president or the student representative to the Board of Trustees calls for? Because mine would irk the board.
The real issue here is this: The student newspaper is not meant to be a PR tool of the school or the board. It is meant to be a newspaper. Just like the Dallas Morning News does not report only good things about the City of Dallas, and just like the Washington Post does not only report good things about Capitol Hill, we do not only report good things about SMU. That is not our function. We would be cheating ourselves and our readers if we did not inform them of problems in order that they might be fixed in an appropriate and proactive way.
The Daily Campus has sparked a lot of change in its almost 100 years of existence. It has been with SMU since the beginning, and has been a voice for students to speak out on their concerns since it started. That might be uncomfortable, but that is the reality of the situation. The most effective page in sparking this change has always been the opinion page. For the administration to eliminate one of the opinions on this page because they don’t feel its worthy of print is indicative of the weight they place on student opinion.
It is simply a fact that SMU has a problem with transparency. This is nothing new. This incident is further proof that the administration has no problem hiding things from the student body. Fortunately, we are an independent paper and can publish this opinion in our own way – even if it isn’t in the original form we intended it to be.”