Semester in review: worthy stories deserve second look

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • December 4, 2014

At issue: Looking back on an eventful, progressive semester

Our take: It is important for students to become meaningfully engaged with campus news.

With the arrival of finals season and the countdown to winter break on every calendar app, there’s not a student at Emerson who needs another task added to their list. Still, the end of the semester calls for a review of the most talked-about topics on Boylston Street, since there were many changes this semester that may soon, or already have started to, affect our day-to-day lives.

It is easy to stay cocooned in a reverie of class work, internship goals, and Allston parties. But this is our own community, and it’s worth examining the bigger picture. As students of school rooted in the premise of enriching the communicative arts, it is incumbent upon us all to keep not only abreast of the news and events surrounding Emerson College, but truly and thoughtfully informed.

Some stories this semester have—through tragedy, frustration, and hope—brought our community together. When freshman Jocelyn Straus took her own life in October, students came together to remember her life and share her achievements. Passion and genuine interest opened a discussion about the first-ever athletics logo, prompting the administration to let students get involved in its design. And, of course, the construction of the Little Building and plans for the new dorm sparked an interest in the community with the extensive changes it would entail.

But some widely-discussed affairs have been impaired by disinformation. When the Student Government Association submitted its initiative to improve on-campus dining earlier this semester, administrators said they were surprised to find that many of the requests had already been addressed.

Similarly, when news that Jillian Doherty, a former Emerson student, filed a lawsuit against the college, some were quick to judge, posting links to sensationalistic articles and penning anti-administration diatribes that often excluded the case’s legal nuances. Lawyers on both sides continue to debate whether the case should go to trial.

And there have been some significant announcements that have largely gone unnoticed. Dave Haden, Emerson’s associate dean and director of housing and residence life since 2005, is leaving at the end of the semester. Haden is one of four administrators named in the lawsuit filed against the college by Doherty, the former student who claims the school mishandled her sexual assault case. Haden is also mentioned in a federal complaint filed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The college, however, claims his departure has nothing to do with these incidents.

MJ Knoll-Finn, the former vice president of enrollment, has already left the college, taking a similar job at New York University. And in the Office of the Arts, which oversees ArtsEmerson and the college’s theaters, four senior administrators will change positions or leave by next year. Although administrative shakeups may seem abstruse, people in those top positions have great power to make major decisions that will affect Emerson students today and for years to come, and so they are worth paying attention to.

We’ve also gained two new minors—comedy and digital media—this semester, to little fanfare overall from many of the same students who had spent years advocating for such recognition. And few students participated in meetings to select a survivor advocate early this semester, part of the college’s efforts to revise its sexual assault response and prevention policies that students had earlier loudly, and rightfully, demanded.

It’s true that there’s a lot that has happened, and it can be hard to keep up. But we owe it to ourselves to review and understand the bevy of changes and proposals so we can more effectively take part in the decision-making processes taking place right here at our campus.