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On Democracy at Monmouth

In 1963, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram published a series of experiments that measured obedience to authority figures. The studies found that a very high proportion of subjects would fully obey the instructions given to them. In light of recent information given to The Outlook, the Editorial staff questions how some at the University may be leveraging authority over students, and thereby abusing their power.

According to numerous sources, editors have been informed that student-ambassadors have been directed to not include specific issues of the paper in hand-out packets to potential students at Mondays at Monmouth. These issues included: the mice in Elmwood (Feb. 13, 2019), blackface photos in old Monmouth yearbooks (Mar. 14, 2019), and the series of interviews with the former University president and provost about administrative expansion and tuition increases (April 10, 2019).

Additionally, student-athletes were warned to not speak to The Outlook when word of the fraudulent meal plan swipes came to light (April 18, 2018), and still remain under a policy that prevents student-athletes to speak freely to us on their own volition without prior approval by the Department of Athletics. Likewise, resident-assistants (RAs) have consistently been told to refrain from talking to the student press on several occasions.

“How can we, as journalists, find out what’s happening on our campus when we cannot be given a fair interview,” an editor asked. “The press is considered the 4th estate. And as the 4th estate, we are the people’s guardians. Our press is free for a reason, so we can disseminate the truth to citizens; and by preventing us (the press) to speak to other students, they are not only doing a disservice to us, but the entire student population at Monmouth.”

Another editor said, “The concealing of certain issues of The Outlook limits the work of the student writers, and reminds me of how a high powered government conceals information from its own citizens.”

Regarding the RA policy, one editor said, “I believe that by not allowing us to speak the RAs, it is a violation of student speech. As students, and writers for our University paper, we should be able to speak to whomever we want to find the truth.”

“The university should be working with us, not against us. Restricting RAs from speaking to The Outlook is unprofessional and disreputable on Monmouth’s part, as if they are trying to hide something,” an editor said. “I believe this restriction has become a big problem, as it blocks the Monmouth community from knowing the truth.

Another editor responded, stating the policy can be looked at as reasonable: “As an RA or Desk Assistant, you are technically an employee of the school. When you sign up for one of these roles, you sign a contract that says you cannot talk to the press. If it’s in the contract and you sign it, then you’re signing away those rights to talk to the press.”

However, another editor rebutted this point, stating that students’ speech and opinions should still be protected nonetheless. “Whether you are a student-athlete, student-employee, or student-ambassador, you are no less a student at Monmouth,” the editor said. “And as a student enrolled at Monmouth, all our voices are protected by Article II Section I of our governing Monmouth Student Constitution. These privileges are second only to Student Code of Conduct in the student handbook, which states that our right to free speech and expression cannot be infringed on by the University. Essentially, these policies restricting our speech can be deem unconstitutional even as a private university.”

One editor brought attention to the fact that materials once available on students’ myMU portal are no longer available; documents like the Fact Book, numerous operational charts, and other statistics have been removed from students’ “For Your Information.” These documents were referenced as the paper’s public source for such information on several occasions, and The Outlook therefore finds it suspicious that these documents are no longer public to the student body. Giving benefit of the doubt, the editor explained that perhaps these documents were taken down in order to be updated and re-uploaded. However, it has been confirmed by two administrators that these documents are still available to everyone else but the students.

“When something shady like that happens, then it’s clear: the higher ups want to cover up information,” another editor said. “If students have the desire to read up on a topic within their campus community, it should be available to be read, cross-referenced, and verified.”

One editor expressed, “I think with students being the majority of the campus community and the purpose for a university in the first place, their inability to confer with these documents is problematic. We have to know the specifics of what is happening on our campus.”

“I find this extremely suspicious and curious which shines a light on the administrative powers they use to shield students and the campus community,” an editor said. “It also shows the importance of The Outlook because we are the only ones who can serve as a watchdog role for the rest of campus.”

Another editor said, “I feel that it’s certainly an abuse of power, as they are trying to curb the credibility of the student press. It demonstrates that they are intimidated by the potential backlash of our reporting. As an impartial student media source, it is our responsibility to hold all campus community members accountable for their actions and report on events that are pertinent to students and faculty. Students should be able to access a credible source of campus news.”

On Sept. 17, 1787, Americans gathered outside the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, waiting in anticipation to hear what our framers had crafted. They asked, “What do we have: a republic or a monarchy?” Benjamin Franklin replied, “A republic. If you can keep it.”

Our job as citizens is to keep it, especially on a college campus. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the freedom of press, and the freedom of speech and expression. As Americans, we don’t just respect these values; we cherish them. And if our University respects and cherishes these values too, then we must defend them.

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University