When members of the Student Government Association threw away hundreds of copies of our newspaper last week, they didn’t just censor an unflattering story and violate the First Amendment. They destroyed the photos, illustrations and stories produced by the entire staff and disrespected the countless hours and sacrifices necessary to report the news at VCU.
They discarded Spectrum Editor Iman Mekonen’s section dedicated to Black History Month and the stunning illustrations produced by Illustrations Editor Karly Andersen. They got rid of stories featuring student athletes written by the sports section. Contributing Writer Katie Hollowell’s story on a potential boost to VCU’s state funding went in the trash.
Designer Andy Caress spent hours on a creative page design for a story featuring singer Shy Lennox, just for it to get thrown away. Opinions Editor Tagwa Shammet’s piece on the controversy around UVa’s multicultural student center was tossed out along with many other stories, photographs, illustrations that took hours to produce, edit and design.
As journalists at the independent student newspaper, it is our responsibility to provide as much transparency as we can into the happenings and processes at our university. We fulfilled our journalistic duty by reporting on conflict within SGA and by making every effort to contact all leaders involved in order to get the complete story. Meanwhile, SGA members, serving as state actors as the governing body of a public university, violated the First Amendment to which they are bound by violating our freedom of the press.
Those who did not respond to questions have no right to be angry at the publication of the story — they rejected multiple opportunities to have their voices heard. Furthermore, they fail to understand the fundamental role of journalism as a means to hold elected leaders accountable. That responsibility doesn’t change just because we’re operating within a university instead of the professional sphere.
This unsigned staff editorial reflects the official opinion of The Commonwealth Times’ editorial staff.