This semester, many unexpected situations and challenges entered my office in Kedzie Hall. While the people involved felt their cases were special, they usually wanted us to give them special treatment.
Many students come to me requesting their names or other identifying features be removed from articles archived on the Collegian’s website. The reasons vary slightly, but can be broken down into three categories.
The first is easy to handle: A name appears in a police report. The person calls months or years later saying they are having issues getting a job because the Collegian posted this information. These calls always make me shake my head, because their actions were preventable. The Collegian prints information provided by the police, which is public information. Many employers will find out all this info and more when they do a background check.
The second includes more gray area: Students agree to interviews about a sensitive subject matter, like cheating or drug and alcohol use, and upon receiving backlash from their families and future employers who see this information, ask that their names be removed from a story. If you are asked to be in the newspaper, pretend your parents, grandparents, friends and everyone from your hometown will read your comments. It is sad in our society that discussing drugs, alcohol or sex can be such a hot-button topic in college, as many of these things occur here every day. While I can understand that relatives might be upset with some comments, you agreed to speak with a journalist knowing a story would be written.
The last group is a tiny minority and causes editors to stay awake at night wondering what to do. It is the student who comes to see me and accepts full responsibility for participating in an official event, but says our reporting has caused a backlash from peers, institutional figures and family friends. It is with these cases I wrestle internally between what I feel is the moral thing to do and what is the correct thing to do in my industry. Yes, in our industry, we have morals, but sometimes must leave them at the door during sensitive discussions.
This group causes me sleepless nights, but this isn’t about me; it’s about those students who are subject to scrutiny from their cohorts and professors. If students attend university-sponsored events and are photographed or quoted, why do professors belittle them? The power dynamic between professors and students clearly favors the professors, and it is abused by those who demean their students. These peer groups and teachers cheapen the college experience when they chastise students for supporting K-State’s many clubs, groups and organizations.
Living close to Aggieville, I’m reminded every weekend how wild and reckless people can be during their college years, yet still be forgiven. The activities on campus are tame in comparison.
As a journalist, it pains me to think that the activities we report students enjoying are being used to taunt and belittle the student body. As the editor-in-chief, it is my job to ensure everyone seeking an exception to our rules is treated fairly.