They say sunshine is the best disinfectant, but transparency is not a priority at Kenyon. As this year’s outgoing Collegian editors-in-chief, we have spent our tenure working to inform the Kenyon community to the best of our ability. We have made mistakes ranging from embarrassing to egregious, but we strive to own up to those mistakes (see page two for corrections) and to rectify them swiftly and professionally. The issue that stands out to both of us as being particularly prohibitive to the fair, accurate reporting we aspire to is the institutional obstruction of transparency that has become all too common.
If President Sean Decatur can grant half an hour of his time every week to Collegian editors for an interview, other administrators, especially those who deal with student affairs, should be able to pencil in a 10-minute visit from a reporter. Moreover, if we had a dollar for every time someone feigned ignorance when a reporter asked about whatever project that person was in charge of, we’d soon have enough money to pave Middle Path. Don’t try to tell us you don’t know anything about the policy you spearheaded.
When we are repeatedly denied interviews with community leaders, or threatened with repercussions if we pursue a story, the message these individuals send is that their actions and activities are somehow above scrutiny. Kenyon administrators serve the student body and with that comes the responsibility of communicating with students via student publications. Members of student government share this responsibility. Student Council meetings are open to the public, yet we have (more than once) over the years been asked to censor on-the-record information. Our mission is not to make any group look good any more than it is to make them look bad. We have great respect for the mission of student government, and because of that respect, we will not report on it through rose-colored glasses.
The transparency problem is one all news publications face. We feel the need to bring it up not to whine but to remind the Kenyon community that it is accountable for its actions. Declining to comment will not successfully suppress an article that you’d rather not be published; it will only make it more difficult for us to represent your side of the story in an honest manner. This campus is plagued by a basic misunderstanding of what news organizations do. If you feel the Collegian has made a mistake, don’t just send an angry allstu and warn your friends against interacting with us. Write a letter to the editor or request a meeting with the editors-in-chief to discuss what you thought was unfair or wrong — we’ll be happy to explain our reasoning.
Our desire to know and understand the truth — about hazing allegations, sexual misconduct reports or anything else — never stems from malicious intent, but rather from a belief that these are things about which our campus has a right to know. We are a tight-knit community, but the Collegian is not going to let the Kenyon bubble suffocate healthy scrutiny.
Sarah Lehr ’15 is an international studies major from Wilmette, Ill. Madeleine Thompson ’15 is a political science major from Decatur, Ga. They are the Collegian’s outgoing editors-in-chief.
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