The Student Association needs to understand our role


The Student Association turned our reporter and photographers away at International Fiesta on Saturday.

In doing so, they torpedoed themselves. 

They prevented us from covering the months of work they and the clubs under their watch did.

SA officials regularly criticize The Spectrum for not covering the work they put into their jobs. They want us to cover “positive” events and show how well they spend your money. 

Yet, when we showed up to a “positive” event they left the student press behind a velvet rope. 

Our editor didn’t reach out to SA for a press pass for the event. We understand that it’s a courtesy to let SA know we’re attending the event and that’s something we didn’t do.

But student journalists should have been allowed in a student event — press pass or not.

On Monday, we gave them a chance to explain in a meeting. 

SA President Gunnar Haberl said it wasn’t his responsibility to decide whether The Spectrumcould cover Fiesta on Saturday.

As the SA president, we know he has a responsibility to look after student journalists, because we’re students, too.

SA officials insisted that since they had allowed their marketing team and the university’s UBNow staff in, the event received coverage.  

The argument made no sense. It’s rather frightening and disheartening that they put it forward. It shows us that the student leaders in charge of more than $4 million of our money do not know the difference between news and public relations. Both their staff and UBNow are versions of marketing and PR. 

SA has seven paid positions for its media and marketing staff. At least $10,900 combined goes toward SA’s media director, public relations director and head outreach coordinator, according to the SA 2018-19 budget. That’s a lot of money for publicity. 

But a buzzy social media post isn’t valuable to the university’s history. 

Publicity offers a “positive” spin, not honest critiques. It doesn’t have to be balanced or fair.

The Spectrum doesn’t work like that. 

We ask tough questions and are critical. 

That’s what this space (and this time in our lives) is for. That’s what university life is supposed to be teaching us. 

SA International Council Coordinator Elise Helou said our empty front page on Monday was a “slap in the face” since there was no photo of Fiesta.

Indeed.

But SA’s actions were a “slap in the face” to us and to you, the student body. 

SA wants us to cover “positive” events. Yet, our most senior staff only remember a handful of times in the past three years when SA sent us press releases. Typically, we have to find out about events on our own, through SA’s school-wide calendar. SA Entertainment staff is always on top of this, but International Fiesta is not an SA Entertainment event.

We do, however, hear their voices when they are angry at what we write. 

Just last month, one SA council coordinator banged on our office walls and criticized co-senior news editor Jacklyn Walters’ grammatical choices. The behavior was egregious and shocking not only for an SA official but for a student, in general. The coordinator said they don’t typically read The Spectrum but when they do, they only see “negative” content.

We resent that. We, like the SA, work every day to start discussions about the university. It’s our job to ask questions, be a watchdog and help students navigate college life better. We are successful when students are informed about campus events and are talking about issues that matter. By not letting us into events, this hurts you, our readers.

When legitimate complaints do come, we answer them and always explain our choices coherently. We correct mistakes quickly and apologize openly if we make them. 

We wish we could have given the International Fiesta bold front-page coverage. 

That was our plan. 

Those hard-working students deserved more, as did their parents, our alumni and everyone who reads our paper. 

We hope SA has learned something from this fiasco. 

We hope we will never have this problem again. 

A number of SA officials strive to be politicians in Albany, D.C. and beyond.

Some of us plan to be professional journalists in the state and the capital, too.

 If SA leaders can’t understand the media’s responsibility to report on campus life, they’re going to have a tough time in the real world.  

The editorial board can be reached at opinion@ubspectrum.com.