Editor’s note: This column is the collective opinion of members of our editorial board. This is not a reported piece.
This year’s Fall Fest was many things: It was a highlight of the semester for thousands of students. It was many first-year and transfer students’ introduction to the Student Association. Most notably, it was the first Fall Fest to be held since 2019.
Given all that, you might’ve guessed that the SA, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of students’ fee money on their fall concert, would want to publicize said concert as widely as possible. We certainly did.
You’d have guessed wrong.
The Spectrum tried repeatedly in in-person meetings and emails to SA officials to obtain two media passes to this year’s Fall Fest — one for a writer and, crucially, one for a photographer. SA representatives were as adamant as their reasoning was vague: This year’s SA e-board would not provide The Spectrum with passes.
This is an unacceptable break with precedent. The SA has routinely given The Spectrum media passes to both Fall and Spring Fests dating back years. Those passes have allowed our reporters to take close-up photos of A Boogie and Lil Baby during their 2019 Spring Fest and record the finer details of Gunna and DaBaby’s 2019 Fall Fest set, all from outside the chaos of a mosh pit.
The SA never gave us a plausible — let alone satisfactory — explanation for their denial of our request.
After emailing with SA Assistant Director of Communications Tendaji Ya’Ukuu, who told The Spectrum that the SA e-board “could not provide press passes,” two Spectrum editors met with SA Chief of Staff Will Eaton on Ya’Ukuu’s suggestion. Eaton told The Spectrum to try to take photos from the crowd and provided no explanation for the SA’s denial.
Eaton emailed those two editors later that afternoon to explain that SA could not “provide media organizations contact with the artists” after failing to secure such provisions in their contracts with Fivio Foreign and Yung Gravy. Eaton did not mention media passes once in that email.
While The Spectrum appreciates the SA’s efforts to include such provisions in their contracts, at no time did any Spectrum editor request an interview with either artist through any SA official, including Eaton.
Eaton, who helps oversee a paid media team that includes three outreach coordinators and a communications official, returned a Friday follow-up email from The Spectrum the following Monday, two days after Fall Fest.
Eaton claimed the SA denied The Spectrum’s request due to their “own emphasis on safety” and “strict credential process.”
We find the SA’s argument regarding safety absurd. We can’t think of anything unsafe about making sure photographers are identifiable to security and SA officials and have a designated space to take photos from. It’s certainly safer than sending an uncredentialed photographer into a crowd of rowdy students with a bulky DSLR camera, as Eaton recommended.
But even more ridiculous is their insinuation that The Spectrum somehow failed to meet their “strict credential process.”
The Spectrum is, quite literally, the only media outlet that covers Fall Fest. If their credential process (which we didn’t hear anything about until the Monday after Fall Fest) isn’t for us, then whom is it for?
Not to mention that our reporters were certainly qualified to cover a student government-run concert. The photographer we assigned to cover Fall Fest was granted a press pass to cover Dua Lipa’s March concert at KeyBank Center and rode in the vice-presidential motorcade to cover Kamala Harris’ visit to UB, both for The Spectrum.
The notion that the SA has a stricter credential process than the Office of the Vice President of the United States is laughable. At the risk of giving them any ideas, no Spectrum editor has ever had to pass a background check or get patted down by a Secret Service agent to cover an SA event.
And yet, in a sense the SA’s was more difficult. We didn’t have to pester various White House officials only to keep up empty-handed.
In short, no SA representative could provide a logical reason for denying us press passes, and their decision not to provide them put our staff covering the event in a potentially dangerous situation.
And that leaves us scratching our heads. High quality Fall Fest coverage surely helps the SA. Students who didn’t attend get to see exactly what they missed out on, and the SA gets to be associated with a free on-campus concert. They have seemingly no motive to deny our request for press passes, and yet they did.
Look, it’s no secret that the SA and The Spectrum have always had their differences. The two organizations — one a student government, one a student watchdog — have competing missions and values. Some level of conflict is inevitable.
We’ve both made our share of mistakes, and we’ve both called each other out on it.
But as sad as it is for us to say, there have been few times in our publication’s 71-year history when the SA has been as uncooperative as it is today, and it’s not even October.
It doesn’t have to stay that way for the rest of the year. We want to have a good working relationship with the SA — as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of fair and independent reporting.
We hope the SA will reconsider their media policy in time for Spring Fest, and we’re certainly willing to discuss this issue further with them in the meantime. We’re only an email or a knock on our office door away.
The editorial board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org