An Open Letter on the Independence of a Student Newspaper

To the Connecticut College community:

During my short time as editor in chief of The College Voice, I’ve noticed an inconvenient trend. On several occasions, offices and individuals at the College have requested to review drafts of Voice articles in which they are featured, presumably in hopes of screening or verifying their fair and accurate portrayal. Most recently, we’ve received such requests from the Office of Residential Education and Living and the President’s Office, and for that reason, this letter primarily concerns members of the Connecticut College administration. Please recognize, however, that this statement applies to everybody: no administrative office, academic department, center, or individual at Connecticut College has the authority to approve what The College Voice publishes. We make this clear on every paper we print with the disclaimer:

The views and opinions expressed in The College Voice are strictly those of student authors, and not Connecticut College. All content and editorial decisions remain in the hands of the students; neither the College’s administration nor its faculty exercise control over the content.

Beyond that, ours is not a unique policy. It is, in fact, a basic tenet of journalism: a responsible paper does not allow the subjects on whom or which it reports to tailor their own portrayal. If we did, we would be a PR outlet, not a newspaper.

I’ve decided to make this public statement for two reasons: first, because as a student journalist who plans to become a professional journalist, transparency matters to me. And second, because as I indicated at the beginning of this letter, I’ve been here before. While I have encountered several attempts at article revision at Connecticut College, I recognize that these efforts are not unique to this institution. My first encounter with this type of request, in fact, came while I was working as an intern at the Worcester, MA Telegram & Gazette, and a woman whom I’d interviewed asked to read my article before publication for “accuracy.” My supervisor, the paper’s city editor, told me point-blank: “We don’t do that.”

I don’t know if these requests are born out of a basic misunderstanding of the journalistic process or an assumption of student-writers’ naïveté and blindness to veiled attempts at censorship, but I would like for them to stop. I know that we are students, that we at times make mistakes, and that our mistakes may reflect negatively on the College. But that is the reality that all educational institutions, and their administrators, must accept: your students are your image, and neither, I’m sorry to say, is perfect.

The College Voice does not strive to skewer the administration. The College Voice strives to convey the truths of the Connecticut College community, and truth, unfortunately, is not always positive. We are not conspiracy theorists; we don’t believe that college administrators exist for the purpose of obfuscating reality and committing moral transgressions. We understand that the work of administrators, like that of all faculty and staff members at this institution, is important and complex. Higher education involves layers of bureaucracy and an array of moving parts, but that is the job, and we respect every College employee’s duty to execute it. Please, offer the Voice the same respect.

Sincerely,

Maia Hibbett, editor in chief of The College Voice

The College Voice editorial board