Editorial: Make Space for Student Journalism #SaveStudentNewsrooms

Jonathan Hernandez / The Triton

It’s been one year since we released our editorial for #SaveStudentNewsrooms, calling on UC San Diego administration to acknowledge student media. What has changed? Not much.

Time and time again, the university blocks student journalists from access to information that the student body deserves to know. Looking over the past year alone, it’s evident that there is still a chasm between campus press and the administration.

UCSD hosted speaker Condoleezza Rice last May as part of a discussion surrounding women in leadership, but Rice specifically included a stipulation that no journalists — student or otherwise — would be permitted to attend the event. Not that there couldn’t be seats reserved for journalists, not that journalists couldn’t record the event. No journalist was allowed to enter the premises.

More recently, Janet Napolitano, president of the UC system, made a seemingly secret visit to UCSD, and UCPD stopped The Triton‘s reporters at the door of a student meeting with the president. When pressed for information, officials and UCPD claimed that The Triton was not on the list of people allowed to enter the room. However, the officers did not have a copy of the list, nor did UCSD administrators respond to requests for said list, even though such information would fall under public record.

Public records are a recurring issue. Just over a week ago, The Triton‘s Managing Editor Ethan Edward Coston filed a lawsuit against the UC Regents for denying him access to information regarding a Title IX sexual misconduct investigation. Such information was previously made available for The Triton in 2018, as well as other UC newspapers such as the Daily Cal. The Triton has used public records requests in the past to uncover disability discrimination against a student, a sexual misconduct investigation that led to the resignation of former professor John Hoon Lee, and administrative nepotism.

We want to be clear: This is not about us having a personal grievance against the UCSD administration. When UCSD holds a monopoly on disseminating information to the student body, that exacerbates the issue of accountability on campus. Journalism in any form is important, but it is especially critical in an environment where people in power are unwilling to be open with the very communities that they hold power over. It is absurd that students have to rely on student journalists shining a spotlight on the administration to learn about things that directly affect all of UCSD. Yet this is the current state of affairs.

So today, as we — both as journalists and members of the student body — look forward to another year of digging for every sliver of information surrounding the campus we pay dearly to attend, we also urge the administration to take concrete steps towards improving the state of media organizations on this campus.

For one, there should be a clearly delineated path for student media to obtain press badges for campus events. As it currently stands, each year, we must scramble to figure out the right department to call. And even then, when we finally find the right person, the badges are really only available for events like commencement and Sun God. We believe press badges should be a regular and permanent system on this campus for events big and small, whether it’s a reading by a local author in Geisel or a former Secretary of State speaking in Price Center. Press passes would also facilitate conversations between our journalists and authorities when it comes to protests where arrests are made, or emergencies such as last quarter’s threats of violence.

While this next issue pertains more specifically to our situation here at The Triton, it certainly is not exclusive to us. There should be physical spaces for all media organizations on campus. Although some media outlets have permanent offices and university funding, it is often inconsistent. For instance, The MQ’s funding is at the whim of Muir College Council, which could be taken away if the council decides that satire is too expensive. Having an office is not just an issue of convenience for members of these organizations, it’s also an issue of community engagement. An office space gives us the ability to host events and engage with students. It also allows us to be more transparent to the public. If an article is misprinted or someone wants to present a confidential scoop, there is no physical space for us to meet with them privately.

We have a long way to go before media can be truly at home at UCSD, but we’re beyond simply calling for UCSD to pay more attention to student media. We’re asking for tangible actions that the university can take to make space for students to understand what’s happening within the walls of their own school.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Triton Editorial Board. If you’d like to submit a response, or comment on a different issue affecting the UC community, please submit here.

Update: This article headline was updated at 1:20 p.m. on April 25, 2019 to denote this as an editorial.