If students examine the mission statements of the Golden Gate Xpress newspaper and SF State’s office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, they might glean the two organizations share common goals.
Part of SAEM’s mandate is to communicate with students “…in a timely manner about issues and information which are of importance to your lives while here in college.” The Xpress’ mission is to do exactly the same.
But the unfortunate reality is that our two organizations have a fractious relationship. That strain came to a head last week when an Xpress reporter was accused of fabricating an interview with a SAEM employee about a recent crime bulletin that described a suspect in a campus assault with a deadly weapon as a “transgender female.”
The description led to a storm of criticism, and numerous calls to the SAEM office from students demanding an apology. On Sunday evening, they got it.
So maybe it’s not surprising that the administration lashed out at Xpress for reporting on their mistake.
After our story went to press, the SAEM employee libelously accused our reporter of fabricating the interview, insisting that he would never say the words attributed to him in the story. He emailed his defamatory allegations to a variety of campus officials, prompting the administration’s communication department to demand a correction.
In the field of journalism, this type of accusation is as bad as it gets. The fact is, it is an utter lie.
Xpress has an audio recording of the interview. It was reported accurately and our reporter clearly told the employee several times that his comments would be published. This employee even thanked our reporter for the interview.
So what could have possibly led the employee — whose very job it is to advance student success — to so severely undermine a student journalist?
We believe the administration’s obstructionism and disdain for our publication emboldened this employee to levy such an outrageous charge in an attempt to bully our reporter into silence.
The Xpress has been hamstrung by red tape and condescension from SAEM from our first issue to this, our last of the term. The university’s representatives refused almost all requests for in-person interviews with the Xpress, stating that all inquiries would have to be submitted by email.
Requiring a list of questions before agreeing to an interview is a form of prior restraint on the First Amendment.
This policy might explain the backlash the Xpress received when SAEM found that an employee had given an unscripted interview. Such targeted bureaucracy allows administrators to tailor responses to best suit their desired narrative while stalling our student reporters into silence.
Our editorial staff believes that a cooperative relationship of mutual respect and trust between the Xpress and SF State’s administration is invaluable for both organizations. We would be glad to foster such an understanding.
But reporting truth will always take precedence above all else for our publication out of respect for the community we serve. Until SAEM recognizes the Xpress as publication worthy of the same respect other news outlets receive, we will be at odds.
It is imperative that the administration, as an informational gatekeeper, recognizes the importance of our twin roles in keeping the community informed.
Working in tandem toward this end is beneficial for everyone within SF State’s community. This can only happen if the administration holds up its end of the bargain with regards to transparency and accountability.
Perhaps the administration needs reminding of SF State’s own mission statement:
“The University is committed to the following goals…fostering a collegial and cooperative intellectual environment that includes recognition and appreciation of differing viewpoints and promotes academic freedom within the University community; and serving the communities with which its students and faculty are engaged.”
This accusation from SAEM is way over the line and should ring alarm bells within the halls of this administration. It’s time for the university’s decision-makers to review their attitudes toward freedom of the press and the student newspaper. Before defaming us, just remember: we are students; we are your most important stakeholders.