Editorial: Transparency at WC

By Alisha George

Washington College is unlike many other private liberal arts institutions in that it does not censor the student-run school newspaper. President Baird Tipson has been kind during his tenure here by taking time every other week to meet with The Elm staff to comment on upcoming stories. The Editor-in-Chief of the paper is invited to Board of Visitors and Governors meetings, faculty meetings and Alumni Board meetings.

While this is extremely respectable, I receive a lot of criticism when stories for the paper originate from some of these meetings.

My job as Editor-in-Chief is to find the stories and report about what is happening on campus. I am not in charge of generating notoriously positive public relations for the college, but I am responsible for letting people know what they may never find out otherwise–good or bad. I have taken that job very seriously.

What disappoints me is the illusion of transparency that exists at WC. The Elm is allowed to attend these events but is then condemned when we inform the campus. This is our job and it is disappointing when that duty is stifled or disrespected.

I have recently been told the Editor-in-Chief of The Elm is no longer allowed to audio record faculty meetings. Currently, we record these meetings to ensure we report the proceedings with the utmost care and accuracy. Since I am invited to attend the meetings, everything that is said is on the record. I was under the impression that this has been the standard for years. Since I took my invitation as indication of it being a public meeting, I did not think faculty permission to recard was required.

I have heard people on campus, especially professors, claim that there have been problems with accurate quoting in The Elm in the past. As Editor-in-Chief this year, I have done everything in my power to prevent this from happening. The reality is, however, that it is hard to report the words of multiple people and quote them properly. Reporters can sometimes unintentionally misinterpret their fast writing. For proper reporting to continue, faculty should realize that recordings of the meeting are only used for professional purposes to benefit the faculty and to ensure that misquotation is prevented.

I would like to address this at the next faculty meeting and would like faculty to ask me any questions they may have. I would also like to gain permission for the Elm to record these meetings in the future. I look forward to working on this matter in my remaining weeks left at WC and hope that the campus community can work toward being truly transparent in years to come.

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