Editorial: SGA amendment a blight on Emerson's core values

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • December 8, 2011

At issue: 

Student body votes to remove the eight percent clause, which safeguarded freedom of the press at Emerson.

Our take: 

This is a dark day for our communications college.

________________________________________________________

Last night, editors of this newspaper listened to WECB in anticipation of Student Government Association (SGA) election results that would ultimately relegate the Beacon to a subject of government control. Journalism Senator and WECB News Director Melyssa Cantor chatted chummily with SGA Elections Commissioner Patrick Comeau as she introduced him to read a verdict that effectively ended the free press at Emerson. The vote condemned our student newspaper to an institutional check unheard of at any college newspaper in the Boston area—much less at any school dedicated to communication and the arts. 

Our journalism senator is elected to represent the high standards of the journalism department. If even Cantor couldn’t recognize the tackiness of using her post at WECB to introduce election returns for a governing body in which she casts a ballot, it was clear that a referendum on journalistic ethics in the Emerson community was to come. 

And it did. The verdict of the student body is an affront to the very values the Emerson community cherishes and fights for.

At the Beacon, we’re proud to have fought for those values, whether the majority of voters supported us in that fight or not. As journalists, we are outraged to have lost on this issue. However, amending the eight percent clause strikes a greater blow to the community at large than it does to a handful of editors committed to journalistic ethics. 

A glance at members of SGA reveals a diverse crowd of active students who are often considered the most patriotic Emersonians among us—orientation leaders, resident assistants, and campus tour guides committed to spreading the message of Emerson beyond the corner of Boylston and Tremont. Going forward, they should be ashamed to say it was due to their efforts that a measure to end freedom of the press at Emerson went absolutely unopposed through our governing body. 

This is especially embarrassing to our college in light of the extensive research the Beacon conducted while amendment supporters slipped manipulative notes under freshman dorm doors. We reached into the archives, spoke to members of SGA’s past, consulted with media professionals, and compiled a package of information that helped to persuade 33 percent of voters that voting “no” was the morally correct choice—the only choice. Those students are true Emerson patriots. 

Those voters were convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that institutionalized animosity toward the Beacon can and does exist within SGA ranks. They believed allowing that to contaminate the allocation of funds was unacceptable, and we deeply thank them for their support. 

This newspaper is now recognized on the same level as any other publication or news outlet on campus. Therefore, going forward, it will be incumbent upon other campus media organizations to report on SGA as thoroughly as the Beacon. President Jeffrey Rizzi has encouraged The Emerson Channel to include SGA coverage on The Common Agenda. WECB co-sponsored the SGA elections that led to these changes. 

To be clear, the Beacon will never send reporters to SGA sessions because the president asks us to.

We will be there anyway. 

We will never release election results in our pages because our news editor is the sitting journalism senator—no Beacon staffer will ever hold a student government position in the first place. 

Our commitment to reporting outside the cronyism some students at Emerson favor will never be shaken, even if our bank account is punished for it. 

The Berkeley Beacon has sustained its vital impartiality for 64 years. That identity is no longer safeguarded by the language of the SGA constitution, and now we must protect it to the best of our ability for semesters to come. The Beacon will continue to be different than every other news outlet on campus. 

We owe our readers that.