The Brandeis Hoot has been in conversation with Vice President for Student Affairs Sheryl Sousa ’90 and The Justice regarding the rights and responsibilities of student journalists on campus. The purpose of these meetings is to eventually update the student handbook’s, Rights and Responsibilities, language detailing the rights of student journalists and what rules they are beholden to.
In these conversations, we have been forced to wrestle with where, and to what extent, our presence as the press is acceptable. It has involved trying to understand the nature of events and individual attendees, and the extent to which people can expect privacy at certain kinds of events.
We are trying to come to the root of our newspaper’s purpose, the purpose of campus journalism and the interests of who we’re serving. There is a blurry line between rights and responsibilities, specifically for students journalists. We acknowledge that we cannot categorize all of our duties as rights or responsibilities. But this does involve taking seriously the meaning of each half of that title—both student and journalist.
Campus becomes a unique public-private location in which journalists have the responsibility to report on events, but also to protect students on campus. The role of being a student journalist cannot be divorced from the community it serves. We are trying to reconcile our responsibility to students with our right and responsibility to faithfully report the news.
We are attempting to understand how to cover events when organizers and individuals are not comfortable with media coverage. We have to weigh our desire to protect the privacy of individuals with our need to report on campus events. This comes down to questions of whom we may quote and how detailed our coverage can be, without alienating our community.
As an editorial board, we have not come to a definitive conclusion on these issues. We have questions that we are working through and that remain unanswered. What does free speech mean for student journalists? When does an open event on campus become a public event? In this vein, when are events private rather than public?
We are also wrestling with the notion of the campus as students’ home, because while Brandeis is not exactly a “home” in the legal sense, it is where the vast majority of students live throughout their time at the university. This raises questions, for us, of what students’ expectation for privacy is on Brandeis’ campus. We’re not sure that it would be the same expectations on purely public property, nor on purely private property.
This is a difficult issue, and we are still working to come to a conclusion ourselves. Among the members of our editorial board, we have different opinions that we are still trying to reconcile, and we recognize that we will not reach a simple resolution. Additionally, this is not a decision that we can come to on our own, but one that should involve a discussion with other members of the campus community. This is in part why we are discussing this with Sheryl Sousa and The Justice, so that we have a more informed, developed resolution.
If you have any thoughts on this issue, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.