The voice of students must be heard. Last week, student government impeached one if its senators, Kwon Yearby — an unprecedented move. While the results of the trial itself are still under question and appeal by Yearby, the incident also gained notice for the exclusion of student press. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the reprehensible actions of Yearby, the ensuing debate has focused on the legality of ASCSU’s action against student press.
Due to this dispute between student government and the press, many students on campus are under-informed on this important situation. The way student leadership and media choose to address this historic move will impact how future conflicts of this nature are handled, and everyone involved has a lot to learn from the situation. While there are no easy answers to the questions that remain in the debate over the impeachment and press involvement, students need their media and government to come together for the sake of their representation. ASCSU and the Collegian need to cooperate as the two biggest advocates for students’ voices on campus. Both organizations could have handled the impeachment process better, and both can learn from this process to better serve the students of Colorado State.
Student press should have been allowed in the proceedings; the Collegian’s mission for students is just as important as student government’s. According to multiple senators, while they were obligated to release the results of the impeachment, the proceedings were kept private for a multitude of reasons, none the least being the sensitive information presented as evidence. While ASCSU has valid reasons for wanting to protect sensitive information, the need for that information to be accessible to the press supersedes any privacy concerns. It is very difficult for student media, or any press for that matter, to present fair, balanced coverage on an issue when access to crucial information is restricted. It is understandable why ASCSU would want to guard details of the trial, but they need to extend trust to student media as an equal voice of the student community. While the identities of the plaintiffs should be kept private, student government needs to respect student media enough to trust them to cover the issue in a way that is accurate and fair to the involved parties, and to maintain that confidentiality themselves.
On the same coin, the Collegian needs to respect ASCSU’s integrity as an organization. While ASCSU was wrong for removing student media from the impeachment proceedings, the Collegian undermined the integrity of student government in its coverage of the debacle. The Collegian received testimony from the impeachment trial from an outside source. In its reports on the impeachment, the Collegian quoted the testimony and released the identities of some of the plaintiffs. While student media has every right to use the information, doing so degrades ASCSU’s protection of aforementioned sensitive information and essentially sidesteps their authority. It is important that the press act as a watchdog over government activities, but they could have been more prudent when releasing the identity of the plaintiffs. While student media has a mission to report all they can to the campus community, the integrity of ASCSU as our student representatives must be respected. Both organizations are equally important to representing students’ voices, and they must show respect in their occasionally competing goals.
The relationship between student media and student leadership is essential to each serving the campus community to their fullest potential, and to protecting each other. As reported by the Collegian, CSU General Counsel do not consider ASCSU a governing body. ASCSU and the Collegian must stand together to defend ASCSU’s legitimacy against outrageous claims like this. ASCSU must be protected as a legitimate governing body because of the responsibility they carry for students. Our student leadership controls roughly $2 million in student money and advocates for the needs of those on campus. Additionally, they approve the allocation of a significant portion of the Collegian’s funding. Therefore, standing together to ensure their legitimacy is paramount to protecting the voice of students on campus. Treating student leadership as a club may have been acceptable in high school, but we pay for our education now and require a legitimate voice on campus.
The impeachment of Kwon Yearby represents an unprecedented move in school history, and the way in which it is dealt with organizations across campus will have a large influence on how future conflicts will be dealt with. Unfortunately, student media and student government have quarreled over this issue, instead of cooperating with each other for the interest of students. ASCSU should have been forthcoming to student media, and the Collegian should have paid more respect to the sensitivity of the plaintiffs’ testimony. ASCSU and the Collegian have both dealt with this impeachment as best they could, but they must come together and balance their objectives to best represent the students at CSU. We as students cannot tolerate our representation being devalued by University officials. While their goals may occasionally clash, ASCSU and the Collegian both have the students’ best interests at heart, and they must cooperate with each other to defend and serve our community.
Collegian senior columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @seanskenn.