Tue08042020

Last updateFri, 19 Jun 2020 7pm

Editorial

A True Response To The Outlook

default article imageI am writing this note to The Outlook Editors from a classroom in Plangere where the digital clock says half of the number 7 part of number 5 and an entire 8, which I guess means 7:58, or maybe 9:58, but more on that later, as the Chair of the Department of Communication I want to apologize to the editors and the staff of the newspaper for their disappointment in lack of reaction to the removed newspapers. When the incident occurred, I did verbalize my support and willingness to aid the staff and editors whatever way they wanted to move forward with investigating the incident. However, I should have put that support in writing, in-print, in the school’s newspaper.  So, this letter serves to do that and to also enlighten the staff and editors to my experience as an Alum of Monmouth College; as a former writer and editor for The Outlook; as a faculty member and now as the Chair of the Department of Communication.

A free press, without censorship is the lifeblood of any community. The Outlook has a long history of covering topics that impact not only its core community- Monmouth students- but also national stories. Sadly, this is not the first time that unknown perpetrator(s) on-campus have decided that they would serve as de-facto editors and/or censors and remove The Outlook from areas where the paper might be accessible to visitors or potential new students. In fact, I have been told by several former students that before The Outlook is added to goodie bags for Accepted Students at Monmouth Day, the paper is vetted for any content deemed negative to the University. The likelihood that a student would initiate this is unlikely, that would only leave staff, faculty and administrators as the likely perpetrators for both acts. While this lack of response or acknowledgement is not shocking to me as a Chair which I will discuss later, it is unfortunately a missed educational opportunity that used to be commonplace on the Monmouth College campus when I was student. The old copies of The Outlook I have in my office have numerous responses to articles and opinions from staff, administrators and faculty in response to campus coverage, reporting and opinions of students. A real debate would take place across the pages of The Outlook, about everything from staff overtime, Feminism, and HIV/Aids, offering students, staff, faculty and administrators the chance to speak their points of view, debate, and allow readers to form their own opinions on the matter- that is so novel. The community as a whole was willing to debate, discuss and find common ground on matters that impacted the whole community. Sadly, I doubt that the perpetrator(s) will have the wherewithal in themselves to come forward and identify themselves or discuss why they felt that particular edition of The Outlook was so egregious that visitors to the University should not read material within its pages. An opportunity to have a real discussion about the matter is lost forever. And those discussions matter!

They matter tremendously. Why? Two reasons that work hand-in-hand with one another: time and communication. What do I mean by time? Well, take for example Freshman Sally. She enters Monmouth University one September weekend and if all goes well, four years later Freshman Sally walks across a stage with a diploma in hand.  A specific set of time that Freshman Sally will have to embrace all of the wonderful educational and civic opportunities, as well as valuable skills to be employable upon graduation- a Liberal Arts education. The reality for Freshman Sally is that she is racing against the clock to engage with as many opportunities as possible before the clock runs out upon graduation. This returns us to the beginning and the clocks. I can report to The Outlook staff and editors that as Chair I am also often in the dark on matters related to administrative support of the educational mission of the department. For example, how many Monmouth University students know that we have a TV studio on the first floor of the Plangere Center? Most do because it can clearly be seen when entering the Plangere Center. How many know that we have a first class Interactive Digital Media Lab with virtual and augment realty capabilities, 3-d printers and video game technology? Few. Why? Any student who has entered Plangere through the doors near the Dean’s offices sees a wall with computers for student use and that is the exterior wall for Plangere classroom 135 where the IDM lab is housed. When the plans for the new academic offering were developed, I was told numerous times by numerous University employees that the wall would be taken down and replaced by glass, so that current students and tours with perspective students would be able to peer in and see IDM at work (like the TV studio). The wall is still there; not removed, and I’ve not been given any update of whether or not it will or can ever take place. Which is a common theme in my time as a Chair, requests are made for both large (computers, tenure-faculty lines) and small (new desks, digital clocks) and like students, crickets.  Which leads me back to my thought on time, as these requests (walls, computers, clocks, etc.) are ignored or worse yet, given no indication that they are pipe dream and never going to happen. If such communication was received, the department could then discuss potential alternative solutions to the problem. I would perhaps have more patience, if it were not for the numerous times I was told in-person “we’ll take care of that,” “it’s going to happen,” or “let me look into it and get back to you,” without any follow-up or follow-through done. Those phrases have been spoken too many times during my tenure as Chair. Staff, faculty and administrators do not have the constraints of time (this is my fifth decade on this campus), but Freshman Sally does. She has a shorter clock that keeps on ticking down to graduation while answers to needed requests are elusive or never appear. As critics will rightly suggest, every request can be measured by the degree importance that clocks are not that important in 2020 or a wall is just a cosmetic change, but other requests have a higher degree of urgency in my department, such as updated technology and computers.

I will end with two thoughts that stress why it is important that open-lines of communication (the irony) are established. The first is based on comments made by two alums at our Alumni Academy event, an event where the Department of Communication honors alumnus of the program for their career success post Monmouth University.  Two of the awardees that night have successful careers in the production and business area of the visual media, a career that began as student member of Hawk-TV, the University’s student-led visual organization. After accepting their award, the awardees were given time to speak to the gathered audience. While they both conveyed personal stories of triumph and disappointments in their career, both mentioned that their time with Hawk-TV and most importantly access to the newest and latest technology offered by the club, gave them a chance to learn the skills and gain out of the class experience instrumental to their later career success. While this was great to hear, as the Chair, I sat there thinking what about our current students? Do we still offer them access to the latest visual equipment? What about Public Relations, Journalism, Radio students? Are we providing the tools and experiences needed to succeed post-graduation? I know we are doing outstanding work at the theoretical level, but what about the hands-on level? If requested budget items are approved, then the answer is yes. If not, the clock still continues to tick on Freshmen Sally. My experience has been that the requests (computers, technology) fall into a black hole, never to be mentioned or spoken of again. When I sought advice on how to get a given request moved along, I was told to make several budget requests, that way the importance of the need will be shown. Every request that every Chair on-campus makes on behalf of students and faculty is important or we wouldn’t be making the request. But the lack of Communication at my level, is no different than what The Outlook editors experienced, it holds a much larger concern as a community. While censorship of student words (let’s call it what it is) to me is appalling, zero response to the issue is also tragic. A community without open-lines of communication is not a functioning community, which is particularly disappointing on a University campus. The strength of the communication between both sides is what builds a healthy and high functioning relationship and community.

In closing, I have apologized here in this article and I would hope that the perpetrator(s) of the removal of The Outlook would at least acknowledge the students concerns and be open to dialogue that would assist in strengthening community life at Monmouth University.  As for the clock, I requested last summer (as well as curtains installed in PRSSA offices and classroom 203 so that individuals captured within don’t feel like they are part of a zoo exhibit), the clock now says 1, backwards C, the first half of a 3 and the number 8, so it must be 10:38 or maybe 12:38. 

Contact Information

CAMPUS LOCATION
The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

MAILING ADDRESS
The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey
07764

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu