Why can’t people speak for themselves?

Free speech is a wonderful thing, and a given right for everyone — unless of course that person’s employer prohibits it.

Back when I was news editor for The Signal, I turned to my co-editor one night and said something along the lines of “Someday I’m going to hang a plaque in the newsroom that says ‘All Roads Lead to College Relations.’” That was two years ago, and I never did hang such a plaque, but my proposed slogan would be just as true today as it was then.

As you may notice from reading Signal articles, a certain few people tend to be quoted A LOT. I have no issue at all with the department of College Relations. On the contrary, I very much appreciate the work those people do. After all, I know it isn’t easy having to speak for so many different people each week.

What is frustrating, however, is that there seems to be very few faculty or staff members, or even student employees, who are permitted to speak freely to the media. Instead, Signal staffers seeking opinions or comments while on article assignments are almost immediately directed to College Relations.

This often happens for even the lightest of stories. On countless occasions, someone has agreed to talk with our writers, only to later back out. The explanation that follows is usually sparse, and of course, results in the writer being directed to the office of College Relations.

So, I can’t help but question just why is it that the administration does not seem to trust its own employees. Sure, I understand that people everywhere cringe at the “big, bad media” and the College only wants to make sure that it is always seen in a positive light. Hey, we all want to be liked, don’t we? However, the situation often just appears worse (for the administration) when doors suddenly slam shut and the only open one leads to a small group of people, albeit well-meaning, who only “represent” the situation and are not actually part of it. Again, this is particularly aggravating when the story is on the lightest and least-probing of subjects. Although really, I suppose I should throw it out there that The Signal is not now, nor has it ever been, out to “get” anyone.

Some may point out at this point that this is what the real world is like, and such practices are followed by large corporations, the government and others, but in my college career I’ve learned that free speech is one of the best things about this country and trusting someone is a sign of respect. So, if the real world really is one where people aren’t trusted to speak for themselves, I must say I’m not looking forward to graduation.

– Brianna Gunter, Editor-in-Chief