The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Staff editorial: We amplify others’ voices, but ours go unheard

Photo by Liv Klassen | Photo Editor

One of Drake’s Core Values is: “We embrace robust communication and transparency.” Recent actions by Drake’s Student Senate leave us questioning its commitment to these values. 

A potential increase to the student media fee had been in talks for months, and it was scheduled to be presented on April 13 and voted on at the April 20 Senate meeting. After months of telling student journalists that the motion needed to be tabled for a week before the vote, Senate moved the vote 15 minutes before the meeting without notifying anyone except their own Snapchat group chat.

Student Senate’s job is to “ensure the voices of students are heard on campus.” Simply put, to break from the understood rules on such short notice is deceptive to students, all of whom deserve to have their voices heard. Many student media workers could not make it to the April 13 meeting but planned to be at the April 20 meeting to speak and hear discussion before the vote. Rescheduling a vote to a date other than the one communicated to the impacted parties flies in the face of democracy – not to mention undermines trust in the integrity of the representatives.

Despite the sudden shift away from the rules we’d been told for months, Student Senate still had the opportunity to table the vote. A motion was raised to table the vote a week to allow the student media workers who couldn’t be there that night a chance to speak – only three senators voted yes on that motion. The rest expressed sentiments about wanting to get the vote over with. To hear that senators are tired of dealing with this situation as a justification to not table the vote is disappointing but not surprising. Is it not your responsibility as a member of the Student Senate to represent the students and to let our voices be heard? 

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 Ironically, the week the vote was moved to was also National Student Employment Appreciation Week. Needless to say, we don’t feel particularly appreciated. 

Much rhetoric has been aimed at student publication workers, from claims that we simply don’t know how to budget to the assertion that we don’t deserve to get paid at all. To this, we say it’s simply not true. 

Funding has been an issue for years, in part because of how unpredictable enrollment numbers are. We’ve been cutting hours, positions and other line items in the budget for years, and it’s not enough. This isn’t a new issue – it’s one the student publications have been battling for years. 

Everyone has taken on more work to compensate. A decade ago, the TD had four copy editors – now there are zero, and the managing editor and editor-in-chief are responsible for copy-editing all content. We also had to eliminate web positions, a social media manager and an advertising manager. It’s insulting when senators imply that we’re in this position because we haven’t cut enough or we aren’t qualified to make budgets.

Some have argued that student publications should be treated no differently than any other extracurricular. That might be a valid argument if the work we did bore any similarity to other extracurriculars. Our staff is answering Slack messages and emails in class, in the bathroom, when they’re hanging out with friends. We rush to the scene of breaking news and provide the campus with information they might not otherwise get. This is time-sensitive, highly-skilled work that is difficult to balance with other commitments, especially a college education.

We are the only accredited journalism school in a private institution in the Midwest – by not showing support for increasing the media fee, we are showing prospective students that we no longer care enough to continue to fund world-class journalism and opportunities for our journalism students to get published. Our publications, and the ability to work for them immediately upon entering Drake, are a huge draw for the university. 

The skills gained by working on student publications are invaluable to Drake students. Leadership, communication, editing and web knowledge are all in-demand skills in the job market today, and many students would not have the opportunity to develop those skills in a professional capacity if it weren’t for the student publications. However, college isn’t free and exposure doesn’t pay the bills. Many TD staffers are only able to work on the newspaper because of the modest pay it provides – if the BSC doesn’t have the funding for pay in the future, fewer students will be able to afford to work for the publications. 

To the incoming 37th Student Senate, we ask that there be more open communication and transparency. Communication was poor between Senate and the BSC this year, and this led to confusion and distrust. Next year, we need clear, non-confidential conversations between the Student Senate and the staff of student publications. We pledge to work with Senate, but that work must be done on both sides. 

The conduct directed towards us this past academic year was disrespectful. The media fee motion and whether it needed to be tabled for a week was not adequately communicated to the student publications. Our voices were not allowed to be heard, which goes against the principles of democracy senators claim to uphold. It is in Student Senate’s interest to maintain the trust of the student body, which necessitates clear, consistent communication. 

If you truly support the student publications like you say you do, then we implore you to approve the student media fee when it comes across the Senate floor next fall. The TD wants to continue producing high-quality journalism and covering the issues most important to the campus. Beyond that, we share Senate’s goal of making this university the best it can be for all students. But we can’t do that if a fee increase is denied again. 

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