After the controversy and discussion that followed our staff editorial last week on Greek Life transparency, we decided it was best to write a follow-up that further explained some of the points brought forth and the reasoning behind our Freedom of Information request for the Greek Life disciplinary records.
First of all, we take accusations of bias extremely seriously, and will continue to examine our own attitudes to ensure that we are always providing points that are reasoned and fair to all parties involved. If we are going to investigate and criticize organizations on this campus, we need to similarly be able to listen and be mindful to criticism that comes back our way. We have read and heard your concerns, and understand that there were certain moments in our editorial where the overall tone came off as accusatory. This was unintentional and in the end only diluted the message we were attempting to send.
In our own frustration with the fact that administration was denying us access to records that other schools were going as far as to database on their own website, we decided to make a statement pointing out that this information was being denied and explaining why we thought it was a poor decision.
We regret that this has led to the perception we believe Greek Life deserves extra scrutiny. The Oswegonian files Freedom of Information requests of similar nature for all aspects of campus life to the school several times per semester. In the past we have looked into academic, athletic and student-run organizations, many of which required similar FOIA requests. The nature of reporting on campus requires us to seek any information we feel necessary to students. There are no biases, only a firm belief that more information, and speech, is always better.
We hope that those who think we are targeting Greek Life will look to our archives to see that, to this point, our coverage of Greek organizations has been almost entirely positive. We recognize the significant contributions to both the campus and the community that Greek organizations have made and have reported on them at every step.
Our reason for the FOIA request was our fundamental belief that Oswego State students deserve every piece of information that is afforded to students at other campuses. If students at other campuses are able to access information about past Greek violations, then students at Oswego State should be able to as well. The staff editorial was intended to highlight that belief, while also pointing out that administration was denying this information on faulty, arbitrary grounds.
We thought there at least needed to be a conversation on the administration’s policy. Unfortunately, the conversation surrounding the editorial has instead shifted to speculation about whether Greek organizations are doing something wrong, with those involved in Greek organizations saying they are unfairly given a bad reputation and those on the other side claiming they get away with too much. In the end, we believe this further exemplified why having more information out there would be beneficial to everyone.
The conversation that occurred in the comment section and over the web following the editorial is the same one that is whispered around this campus semester after semester, and we hoped our FOIA request would bring some actual substance to the situation.
Because Greek organizations do operate under such secrecy, they are often prone to baseless, “Animal House” fueled rumors being thrown their way from those not involved. With non-disclosure can often come an assumption of wrongdoing. It’s unfortunate, but a perception that only further lengthens the divide between Greek and non-Greek portions of the campus.
So our thought process was: why not get some sort of information out there to bring some substance to these conversations? That is our role after all, to provide students facts with which to form their own opinion.
If other universities go out of the way to database the information, clearly it is important. And if the amount of people commenting and debating on our first editorial is any indication, clearly the topic itself has importance on campus.
Bringing some actual data to a debate that, as of now, has persisted solely on hearsay and rumors can only improve the level of discourse on campus. It’s fair to no one when discussions about Greek Life’s code of conduct compliance on campus occur without any verifiable facts to go off of. It makes students believe administration is covering something up or not properly enforcing policy, and opens Greek participants up to be the subjects of a steady stream of gossip and rumors. Without the facts, the school will continually be stuck in a dead-end discussion.
This information can help the administration appear more committed to enforcement, it can allow Greek Life organizations that are doing the right thing to shed any rumors unfairly put on them and allows students looking to get involved to understand the history of an organization before joining.
Other students may not agree, however, and we welcome those points of view. Debates about access to information are a crucial component of a free press. We regret that our first editorial led instead to a back-and-forth between the two opposing sides of ‘you-pay-for-friends’ vs. ‘you-didn’t-get-a-bid.’ Both statements are obviously absurd, and true debate is frozen before it can even start when the other side is reduced to a caricature. It is clear that the candor of our first editorial in many ways contributed to this type of attitude, so we hoped a follow up could potentially lead to a healthier discussion.
Let’s all try to hit the reset button and see what kind of discussion we can have on the issue at hand. The school has decided not to provide this information; the important question here is whether or not they should. Our opinion has been presented, now it’s up to the rest of the student body to provide their thoughts. Comment online or submit a letter to the editor and let us know.