Editorial: An unacceptable silencing

A staffer in Concordia’s admissions office, who was intentionally not named by the office, methodically went through and confiscated all copies of The Concordian in Knutson Campus Center yesterday.

This week’s Concordian featured on the front page a story about students’ use of alcohol before campus dances. The story was not inflammatory, but rather was a description of current use of alcohol on campus and an examination of campus policies. However, because of the high number of tours being given this week to prospective students, the admissions office determined that this was not the image of Concordia they wished to project. While this may have been one person within the office, that staffer acts in a way that reflects the office, and the office is responsible for the actions of its staffers when they act on behalf of the office.

This confiscation is significant. By taking the paper, the admissions office determined that it was more important for their office to be able to present a rose-colored view of Concordia than to allow the students to present the truth through a body of work they spent valuable time creating. The admissions office determined that the true student voice was not what they wanted to present of the college, but rather that they would like to present the glossy brochures of Happy Cobbers. The Concordia College of the admissions office is not necessarily the Concordia College of the students, and an accurate representation of student thoughts via The Concordian is essential to a thriving liberal arts college. The Concordian does not serve as a vehicle for marketing and public relations, and must maintain its presence of being completely detached from the admissions office and the marketing they do for the college.

The liberal arts model is based on curiosity, a quest for the truth and a commitment to denying intentional deceit. The Concordian allows students to learn about campus matters and gives them a forum to respond to issues they are concerned about. By taking away this forum for discussion, the admissions office went against the liberal arts paradigm. They directly acted against what they push as the ideal education model when speaking with prospective students and their families.

Concordia is incredibly focused on the idea of “becoming responsibly engaged in the world.” Responsible engagement involves a thorough examination of oneself and one’s surroundings, and a sharing of that knowledge with others. A newspaper is one of the best ways to disperse knowledge to a group of people. By taking those newspapers away from the student body, the admissions office did not allow Concordia students to be engaged in their campus community, and they themselves acted irresponsibly by taking information from a group of students whose purpose for going to Concordia is to collect information and to absorb and create knowledge. The admissions office deliberately went against the mission of the college by confiscating these papers.

Newspapers, at their core, exemplify democratic ideals. Those who are governed deserve to have access to information about the system in which they operate. Students have a right to know what their peers are doing and saying, what goals the administration has for the college and any pressing concerns that have arisen. The newspaper is the best way to spread information to a large, diverse body of students, and the admissions office directly opposed the ideals of the newspaper in its democratic form by censoring information that is being given to the student body as a whole.  Many classes offered at Concordia, both within the multimedia journalism major and beyond, describe freedom of the press as essential to a functioning body of people. By taking these papers, the admissions office went against one of the core tenets of a good, high-functioning society, as taught by the classes they promote to potential students.

In my positions as News Editor and Politics Blog Editor at The Concordian, I am ashamed of the actions of the admissions department. Censorship at any level fundamentally contradicts the ideals of democracy and the liberal arts. If the admissions office is truly dedicated to the learning model they espouse the benefits of, they cannot commit acts of censorship. While this was one instance that lasted a matter of hours, it is indicative of a larger issue, and must not be tolerated by the students, faculty and staff of Concordia College. The forum that is provided in a newspaper must never be sacrificed for an inherently deceitful, glossed-over image of a college.

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Emma Connell

Class of 2014 at Concordia College. Majoring in Political Science and Philosophy. Involved in Student Government and, of course, The Concordian.

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15 Comments

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    It looks like the admissions office just learned about “The Streisand Effect”.

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    This is silly and juvenile.

    Everyone needs to see both sides here. Enrollment was not wrong for moving it and The Concordian was not wrong for publishing it. Though, the 250 families visiting campus last week maybe did not need to see an article about how bad our alcohol consumption and dances are blasted on the front page of the newspaper. Everyone knows that people drink in college; that is not a hidden fact. We do not need to broadcast it to everyone as they try to find the college they would like to attend. Who wants to attend a college where it is advertised so blatantly that people are out of control on campus?

    Get off your “I’m a College Student waving my Right to Speech Flag” and put on a Public Relations face for our college. We are not trying to say that we are perfect and pure, but we are a welcoming community. Some view uncontrolled alcohol consumption as a danger. Do we want to portray our campus as a dangerous place?

    Move on.

    There are more important things to worry about currently then someone moving a stack of newspapers.

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    Hold On a Second, Miss Connell,

    I don’t feel you’re being consistent in your application of blame on this. You state, “While this may have been one person within the office, that staffer acts in a way that reflects the office, and the office is responsible for the actions of its staffers when they act on behalf of the office.”

    But Page 2 of every Concordian has the following disclaimer: “Opinions expressed in the Concordian do not necessarily reflect those of Concordia’s student body, faculty, staff or administration.”

    In other words- what a single Concordian editor or staff member- or even a group of them- thinks, feels, has as attitudes, or believes does not represent the rest of the newspaper. So you somehow ‘alibi-out’ with the paper staff, but not that of the Administration staff by the actions of a single one of their members? Why is that?

    I understand this paper is your baby, and you spend some good time in getting out a quality product, but don’t wage editorial wars on things that aren’t worth it. Be consistent with your treatment of others, and let this battle be fought at the right level, by the right people: that’s what your faculty adviser is for. I would invite you to continue writing editorials of substance (or, substance abuse, as it were) and quality. Thanks.

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      How is this “editorial war” not worth it? This was blatant censorship of the current student body by administration, so what better way to express an opinion than through this editorial?

      This goes beyond the “this paper is your baby” because as a current student and not a member of The Concordian staff, I’m pretty outraged that someone deemed it unacceptable to have an article about alcohol usage before campus events in a public area for students to obtain.

      Additionally, your argument about “alibi-outs” and blame placement simply does not make sense. The purpose of an editorial is to express a personal opinion on behalf of the writer, not necessarily the paper itself. However, the Admissions office removing The Concordian from the campus center is however many people acting on behalf of a whole office. There is no disclaimer at the door of admissions saying that their actions do not represent their office as a whole.

      Emma, thank you for not allowing this to simply go unnoticed.

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        I said this back-and-forth is not worth fighting on the pages of the Concordian; not that it’s not worth fighting- period. If you read what I said in the last segment, you’d discover I said, quote: “let this battle be fought at the right level, by the right people: that’s what your faculty adviser is for.”

        Secondly, your confusion over what I’m talking about WRT ill-placed blame might stem from the fact that you’re incorrect that it was the “Admissions office removing the Concordian from the campus center.” It wasn’t. From what I read, it was the actions of an individual, yes? So again- blaming an entire department on the actions of one is precisely what I’m talking about here. It’s intellectually dishonest to do so when this very paper permits ones words, beleifs, and actions to have no reflection on the rest of the paper and staff.

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      The Concordian is published with that disclaimer, sure, but each article is published with a name next to it. By signing the article, the author assumes responsibility for it. For you analogy to work, the staffer collecting The Concordian would have had to leave a signed note stating that his/her actions do not reflect the attitudes of the admissions office as a whole.

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        I dissagree with your application of the said-disclaimer in each Concordian: the disclaimer does not magically become more or less true depending on whether an author puts thier name on the line. Anonymous posts and articles have been published in this newspaper; the disclaimer does not “switch off” as it were, simply because the author remains anonymous or uses a pen name. There is nothing which should compell Miss Connell to make the actions of one person extended to an entire department- none. Her singling out this act speaks more of her sensitivity to her work at the Concordian than it does to any objection to censorship.

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    “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of Wisdom” ~ Thomas Jefferson. Honesty is a fundamentally necessary and essential component of any institutional academic environment. But, as Plato proclaimed, “Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty.” It’s unfortunate for an institution like Concordia to sully it’s reputation in service of projecting an untrue image of itself. In this way, image has become more important than reality; the effects do a disservice to the school, its denizens, and to prospective parents and students. “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
    but a just weight is his delight.
    When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with the humble is wisdom.
    The integrity of the upright guides them,
    but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
    Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
    but righteousness delivers from death.” ~Proverbs

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    Look, if you go to college, there is a great chance that you are going to drink alcohol. If you are a woman, there is a 25% chance you are going to be raped. Concordia is no different, if not worse.

    Concordia is harming it’s current and potential students with it’s ridiculous attempt to cover it’s image in saintly white clothe. If you think Concordia does not also try to cover up drinking and rape directly to parents, and even denying the experience of victims to their face, you will sorely disappointed. Or you could glide through your four years naïve and ignorant. I could name names, but the truth is everyone is culpable because the priorities of this college are wicked.

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    Thank you!
    1. I have a student who is a sophomore at a state run school. He previously attended a private Christian/ religious campus. STATE UNIVERSITIES allow less drinking ON campus than any private higher learning facility can enforce. YET… most students at state universities worldwide participate in more drinking than do students at private universities.
    2. To the parent above who admits to drinking while they were in college and wants to send their child to college with both the parent AND child’s head in the sand, wouldn’t you rather be informed and be able to “educate” your child than to think that because it is a small private school it MUST BE GOOD…”They are ‘dry’ so our child WILL be sober”. Really?
    I have a Master’s degree and have attended 5 universities nationwide in my career. Some had strong reputations for being ‘party schools’ and some were schools where students participated in drinking but with restraint.
    I NEVER DRANK WHILE ATTENDING ANY UNIVERSITY IN ANY STATE AT ANY AGE!
    Thinking it was part of the college experience undoes the educational process. Yes, our children will leave home, experiment and experience many things. I hope they won’t get raped (date raped as I was by a drunk classmate), get AIDS, be killed by a drunk driver (as my college roommate was) or have any of the awful experiences of life. I graduated with an amazing man who did his college studies while going through chemo and losing faculties of his physical health. Life sux! College is awesome! It is NOT for everyone. It is NOT for the rich and privileged which is often the case. Sadly, college has become a ‘rite of passage’ and we’ve forgotten its true purpose which is to inform, expand and EDUCATE our future potential.
    AS A PARENT (and a personal [and educated] friend of Dr. Jay Hershberger) I would desperately WANT this newspaper published the week I was walking my prospective student across campus so that I and they were educated and could make informed choices!
    Having come from a family where alcoholism is an issue, my son knows to have great respect for the life choices of citizens like Joe Biden, who chose to NEVER touch alcohol, even though my son is a Republican. And he has been educated to not presume that just because he attended a Church of Christ supported university that his classmates were sober, virgins or making right choices. It was part of his “education”!
    Freedom of press goes to students on a college campus as much as it does the PR department of the university!
    Let us authentically BE who we profess to BE!

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    Dear editor,
    Thanks for this well-written response to a short-sighted and misguided decision on the part of the Enrollment Division. Such a action is rooted in economic fear, and betrays a lack of confidence in the college’s current student body and the faculty who guide them in their journey towards a reflective life. How ironic in this case that the college’s commitment to BREW–Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World–was so quickly abandoned by such an unthoughtful and uninformed decision.

    I will be sending my daughter off to college in less than two years. I am interested that she learn to think critically, to seek truth, and to become a mature member of society. This includes an open liberal arts education that deals with reality in today’s world. I have always assumed Concordia College to be a place that values such ideals. Certainly the faculty are committed to them. I would encourage the Enrollment division to value those ideals as well, and to be more deliberately thoughtful and informed by them when making such tactical enrollment decisions in the future. Sincerely, Dr. Jay Hershberger, Professor of Music

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    Lisa,

    While I will say that I am sympathetic toward the college’s concerns about protecting its image, it seems to me that confiscating The Concordian across the Campus Center blows the issue completely out of proportion. First off, from what I understand, the story was below the fold, meaning that a person would have had to pick up the paper in order to even see it. Moreover, the article was sympathetic toward Concordia’s “dry campus” policies. Last, but not least, the fact that a story about some students consuming alcohol ON OCCASION makes the FRONT PAGE of the paper should be a cause for relief, not concern, among the parents of prospective students.

    The bigger issue here is the question of censorship (and self-censorship). Suggesting that the paper should keep campus visiting schedules in mind when deciding what stories to run (or not run) is condescending, at best. In effect, we would be telling students that they can do their little newspaper thing, so long as it doesn’t offend or inconvenience anyone. But the paper is not an extension of Concordia’s admissions office, nor should it be. If the Concordian is to have any value beyond being a bullet point on a resume, its writers cannot be restricted to cutesy personal interest stories and sports updates, and reflections on additions the Dining Services menu.

    Unless they aspire to work for the People’s Daily.

    Best,
    Andreas

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    I get it. I really do. As an editor, the Concordian is your baby. You’re trying to investigate and report on campus issues that are pertinent to the student body and greater Concordia community, so to have the Administration confiscate your work is insulting. It’s dismissive. Worst case, it’s “Big Brother” at work. However, as a parent of two college students (one at Concordia and one at another “dry” MIAC school), sending your children off to college is a terrifying thing. Exciting, yes; wonderful, yes; but terrifying. So for an article discussing on-campus drinking to be displayed on the front page of the paper when the official school policy is that alcohol is not permitted on campus…during a week of many visits by prospectives and their parents…hmmm. I get that, too. Many parents don’t want to acknowledge that their children will drink while at college (even though they very well may have done that themselves in their college days – present company included). Some will specifically choose Concordia because it is a “dry” campus and they feel their child will be safer. So to have an article like that on the front page of the paper could scare more than a few prospie parents off. “Good riddance!” you might say. “We don’t need hyper-protective parents and their kids at Concordia, anyway!” Maybe. But Concordia will only survive, and thrive, if it continues to attract and enroll bright students. Where these students ultimately enroll will be largely influenced by their parents’ opinions. After all, the parents are ultimately the ones footing the bill for their child’s college experience (student loans notwithstanding). The college can’t afford to have a scandal of any sort splashed on the front page of its paper at a time when they are desperately trying to attract new students. While you, as someone of legal drinking age, might think that alcohol on campus is not that big a deal, I can assure you, it is a VERY big deal for many parents getting ready to send their child off to college. I guess my ultimate view is that the article should have been featured during a slow time of parental visits – not Homecoming, not Family Weekend, not MEA prospective visit days. Concordia is just trying to remain a viable institution. It’s easy to say that the “rose-colored view” that the college tries to project is hypocritical and nauseating; however, if enrollment declines, and continues to suffer, then your alma mater will suffer in reputation as well. Do you really want to be an alumnus of a college that once attracted great students in great number, but now has to beg prospectives to attend? Do you want your alma mater to be a joke? I can assure you that you do NOT want that. Based on the recent article on declining enrollment, it is a very real concern for the administration. Should you have had your paper censored? Well, no. Should you have featured the article during a different week? Hell, yes.

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      Lisa –

      As a recent graduate of Concordia, I find myself disagreeing with your “slippery slope” perspective on a future decline of future students.

      I was not blessed to come from a fantastic financial situation where my parents paid for my college. I worked hard to gain scholarships, and used student loans where the scholarships did not cover tuition. That being said – I value and respect my parents’ opinions and advice; however, the decision to attend the college of my choice was ultimately up to me. Even if I would have chosen to have gone to a “wet” campus, I know that my parents would have supported my decision. I feel that Concordia needs students who can act autonomously, and do not rely on their parents to make life choices for them. Unfortunately, students will make poor life choices whether or not their parents are there to guide them. Sometimes we learn best by making mistakes.

      Also, students drinking on or off campus is hardly a scandal. It’s no secret that some college students consume adult beverages under age or otherwise. As you know, 21 is the minimum age to buy/consume alcohol – most upperclassmen are at least 21 at some point in their college career. Don’t forget about the non-traditional students such as those who have prior military service, or chose to begin a different journey post secondary school.

      I would like to see some facts on how potential alcohol usage would affect prospective students’ decisions to attend Concordia. In case you haven’t been reading the Concordian regularly, this topic is certainly nothing new, and has been printed before in the Concordian.

      Here’s an example: http://theconcordian.org/2011/04/07/on-campus-alcohol-use-and-facebook

      If that’s not shocking enough, here’s a two part article about sex. http://theconcordian.org/2011/04/07/let%E2%80%99s-talk-about-sex
      http://theconcordian.org/2011/04/14/part-two-in-our-sex-series

      I don’t think it’s responsible to create an atmosphere and environment that is not true to Concordia’s spirit. If some students drinking alcohol is the biggest issue prospective students have, then I think the positive aspects of the college will outweigh that perspective on campus life.

      If I were a prospective student again, I would certainly have more issues with the college putting on a fake front for me through censorship than students drinking. We need to foster an environment that allows students to make mistakes and grow from them. We can’t protect young adults from everything that may seem harmful.

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      Ms. Johnson,
      You would rather students and parents make ignorant, uninformed choices than educated ones in service to attendance numbers and image. Really? That is an unfortunate stance–one that does not live up to the values of our beloved institution.

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