By Patrick Fitzgerald
We, at The Guardsman, protest the administration’s consistent habit of referring inquiries to the marketing and public relations director because it obstructs the public’s right to know the truth and hereby respectfully call on the administration to be more transparent, forthcoming and accountable.
As a result of its actions, City College’s problems and dysfunction persist as does the insider politics that cripple the institution’s ability to make effective changes and leads us to surmise an institutional incompetence at best or serious hidden wrongdoings at worst. We don’t know.
A case in point was a progress report on the college’s sustainability plan to reduce its long-term environmental impacts and adapt to climate change. The college has a 2009 Sustainability Plan, yet it was not at all clear who was administering it.
We had hunches on the key players, but when contacted, those administrators denied our reporter interviews and referred him instead to Marketing and Public Relations Director Jeff Hamilton. When asked about it, Hamilton responded that he was unaware of the plan and would need to do further research.
Hamilton, at the last minute, was responsive, but the information he provided left more questions than answers. Had our reporter had direct access to administrators, he might have found answers that reflected the true nature of the college’s commitment to sustainability.
For now, we don’t know. This leaves the college unaccountable for one of the most pressing issues our community faces — the threat posed by global warming.
Another story focused on the negotiations between administration/district and faculty. Our reporter asked for a comment from Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb about the faculty’s boycott of her speech but was denied and referred to Hamilton. Hamilton never responded, and the reporter was left with no administrative comment about the important incident.
The most recent incident was the secrecy surrounding the Wellness Center water break that forced the building’s closure and the cancelling of numerous classes for four days affecting hundreds of students. While regular updates were made available, they were opaque as to the true nature and seriousness of the problem and remedies used to fix it.
The consistent nature of denying access by administrators has either become an easy cop out or an informal policy.
Repeated, concerted efforts were made by our reporter to gather information, but all administrators remained tight lipped or just ignored our requests and consistently referred to Hamilton for further information. We see this as a way of managing above and beyond what was called for, and we are left wondering about the level of institutional paranoia of being scrutinized.
In this story Hamilton said, “Nobody’s told anybody not to release any information. It’s rather who should you talk to when you’re a member of the press—so if it has to do with talking to (The Guardsman), or The Chronicle, or The Examiner, I’m that person. But nobody’s been told not to release any information.”
We at The Guardsman have our doubts. The consistent nature of denying access by administrators has either become an easy cop out or an informal policy. It’s ironic that the very department meant to communicate with its target audience is actually eroding trust in the institution it serves.
There are more stories which left our audience, the students and the public, shortchanged of information that could have identified key knowledge and/or shortcomings which might have held City College accountable, identified dysfunction and, in the end, could have strengthened trust in the administration and the institution.
This is not a zero-sum game where the best defenses should win. The free flow of information is dependent on access to key administrators and departments. It is not a win when City College administrator’s play defense through public relations whose prime objective is the make the college look good.
We understand the college is going through tough times especially with the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges’ (ACCJC) way of picking at pitfalls to the point of threatening the college’s very existence.
We are not the ACCJC; we are student journalists who appreciate the school and see the value in the education it provides. We see and experience its deficiencies daily and, for our brief time here, wish to leave it better equipped to fulfill its core mission. However, that takes trust to allow such openness and respect for our evolving skill as journalist and in the greater public discerning eye.
This nonsense leaves City College weaker and less responsive because the college cannot take the clear look necessary to see its faults and successes with the critical eye that good journalism can provide. Unfortunately, it looks to us as though the ACCJC won by sowing seeds of lasting distrust that is sapping the school of vitality and eroding something precious: the public’s trust.
Contact a reporter