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If speech night happens and no one is around to hear it...

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • November 29, 2012

At issue: No audience for SGA speech night

Our take: Where is everyone?

Last fall’s Student Government Association (SGA) speech night was filled with palpable student interest and a complete roster of candidates. WECB, the Beacon, and the SGA live-tweeted the addresses, and the Beard Room, in which the event was held, was jam-packed.

Last night’s candidate speech night presented a starkly different scene.

No audience members beside Beacon reporters and members of the SGA were present. A year ago, a debate between class of 2015 presidential candidates was the focal point of the evening. This year, there is only one balloted contestant for each of the open positions for the 2016 class council — president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary — and communication studies senator, two of whom weren’t even present to give speeches.

During elections last December, discussion centered on an amendment to the SGA constitution that would strip the Beacon of its guaranteed funding. WECB was eager to announce the elections results, which showed that the amendment passed — requiring the Beacon to appeal for funds each year, and subjugating our paper to the institutional control of the student government. Imagine House Republicans controlling The New York Times editorial page’s budget.

Naturally, we found that unprecedented revocation of the free press at a communications college dumbfounding. But we wondered further why the news outlet presided over by the journalism senator was handed the opportunity to break those results. As campus referees, we called foul on that scoop. To be precise, we called it tacky.

But, we were comforted to know that despite whatever ethical breach allowed WECB’s immediate access to election results, we’d be joined at the table by a fellow student organization committed to covering the people we elect to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of our money. The radio station must have earned the scoop by virtue of its commitment to keeping students abreast of where those dollars were going.

Surely WECB news gave a damn about student government at Emerson. Right?

WECB has yet to be seen this election cycle. Reporters from The Emerson Channel were absent, and the SGA has not formally tweeted or blogged about the speeches. The lesson: Any suggestion that what the Beacon does is commensurate with what happens at other campus news organizations—the ostensible justification of the amendment—is false equivalency. No one else is covering this stuff. Except for the Beacon.

At the risk of sounding heroic, we’re not heroes. We’re journalists, committed to the day-to-day, often mundane, seldom scandalous news that happens at Emerson. In that sense, we’re peerless on campus. And at a college dedicated to communication, that’s a real shame. We deserve peers, and our readers deserve a plurality of engaged news sources on campus. As of speech night, there aren’t any.

Whenever there’s controversy, on-campus media outlets are quick to cover it. But during a regular election, when the student body votes for candidates that could potentially effect major changes like dining hall reform and ECwireless improvements, Emerson news gatherers are absent.

Despite the inadequate media coverage and lack of student interest in the SGA, students can still get involved. Any undergraduate can campaign as a write-in candidate. On Wednesday, freshmen will vote for their class council members, and communication studies and writing, literature, and publishing majors will vote for their senators. The vote, however, doesn’t need to be limited to the names on the ballot.

Students should take the initiative to write in other candidates on their ballot, or even campaign themselves. And Emerson’s other student journalism organizations should write themselves into the bland but important business of SGA elections.