Searching for answers from administration

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • September 15, 2016

At issue: Transparency from the administration

Our take: We’re in the dark

How many emails does our school send us over the course of an academic year? Hundreds? Thousands? It’s tempting to delete everything we see, making room for last minute messages from professors. But it turns out that these seemingly innocuous communications have become our school’s only way of disseminating information that, if announced another way, would have the student body up in arms. Beyond even the issues of emails, Emerson has been notably silent on subjects that have proven to be highly controversial. The Beacon and the Boston Globe have both, respectively, reported on affairs for which the school itself has not given press releases. And this is an ongoing issue: as of the morning of the 14th, Emerson students continue to be blindsided by digital announcements that will deeply affect our campus culture.

With the renovations for Little Building scheduled to begin next year, many offices and facilities that once called Emerson’s oldest dorm home have found a new place to hang their hats—the Cabaret Theater. In an email addressed to the student body, Al Ragone, Business Services Systems Coordinator, and Josh Hamlin, Director of the Campus Center, outlined the administration’s plan to merge the activities of the Bill Bordy Theater and Auditorium with the Cabaret Theater in January. The message outlined the guidelines for students to book the shared space, but the theater is just that—shared. Last year, we wrote about the lack of spaces the college offers to showcase their creative work. This year, it appears that even our previously established areas to exhibit art are continuing to shrink without any student consultation.

We learned from an article in the Boston Globe on Sept. 5 that the college is in cahoots with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, asking permission to rent a 56-room building on Hemenway Street near Fenway to house students temporarily. Emerson is pining after the hostel, and it’s hopeful to transform it into a dorm for two years while it renovates and expands Little Building downtown — a project that’s in the college’s construction queue for summer 2017. But aside from what the Beacon reported this week on the future resident hall at 2 Boylston Place, there’s yet to be an official announcement to students about this budding Band-Aid turf. We don’t know who might get transplanted to the Fens. We don’t know if this change in location will result in a higher dorm price tag. And we don’t know how the college plans to transport students to their campus down Boylston (although there are whisperings of  a shuttle). Securing housing is often an anxiety-inducing circus for college students, especially those of us worried about living within our budgets. It’s a change that’s happening rapidly, and we’d like a heads up to plan.

In other recent news, after all of the Colonial Theatre hubbub that swept campus last semester—we shan’t forget about the petition and Beacon editorial—The Boston Globe has reported that Emerson may not tear it down after all. Considering how explicit students on campus were about their distress and concern with the theater, it is reasonable to have expected transparency with this issue. However, the campus has to find out about a possible reversal from a separate entity rather than the school itself. The school has yet to make any official statement to the student body about Colonial, save for retweeting the Boston Globe article three days ago (and that is generously calling a retweet a statement).

Controversy doesn’t stop at the chaos of the Colonial. In a meeting last April, administration presented a new logo for the college that was created based on a year’s worth of research. Reactions to the swoopy-swirly design weren’t positive—we certainly weren’t fans, and 321 signed an online petition to ditch it. But as President M. Lee Pelton said at the meeting: “It’s not American Idol. You can’t vote on it.” In a snarky/pointed email, Pelton asked the community to wait for an official slideshow released by the college before making any judgements on the logo. We waited all summer, but no presentation has been released. A lack of information left the community dissatisfied with a symbol that should accurately represent us all; and we don’t even know if this logo is here to stay (although it’s been spotted on a sticker as a tattoo on the arm of a lion).

Alone, any one of these communication issues could be seen as a fluke, a mistake on the part of one individual in one department. But together, they paint a rather damning portrait of a school seeking to keep it students out of the affairs taking place on their own campus. With a lack of transparency comes a lack of accountability, a deeply troubling implication for a school whose student body places such an emphasis on activism. We only ask for a little information, something to keep us from stumbling around in the dark.


Managing editor Mark Gartsbeyn, who is a Cabaret technician, did not contribute to this editorial.