An Open Letter to President Pamela Gann
March 1, 2013
Dear President Pamela Gann,
Claremont McKenna College recently instituted a new student media policy requiring student
journalists interested in contacting administrators to do so strictly through the Office of Public
Affairs. The OPA may then facilitate an interview for the student, but can choose instead to
provide the requested information or a statement on the given issue, which denies the reporter
the opportunity to speak directly to administrators who are most familiar with each topic.
We urge you to reconsider this policy because it undermines our ability to provide timely
coverage of the issues that students care about. In hindering student journalists’ access
to CMC administrators, this approach to student media decreases the transparency of
administrative actions and harms the relationship between the CMC administration and the
students whom it is meant to serve.
Max Benavidez, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs, and Alissa Stedman, Director of
Media Relations, outlined and discussed this policy in a February 4th meeting with editors
from the Forum, Claremont Independent, and Claremont Port Side. They said that this policy
is meant to put student journalists in contact with appropriate sources and to provide them with
accurate information. External news media already operate this way, making this new policy a
formalization of such practice for all media.
This policy makes sense for external media, and we appreciate the respect implied by treating
our publications the same way. Yet campus publications should be treated differently. Unlike
external media, we are familiar with CMC and its staff, and we care about stories that will never
be national news. And in our attempts to adhere to the new policy by contacting administrators
through the OPA, we have found OPA staff to be slow in responding to our requests – if they
respond at all. We have missed deadlines because of this policy, preventing us from keeping
students informed about the issues that affect them.
We understand the administration’s desire to ensure that information published about CMC
is consistent and accurate, particularly in the wake of the SAT scandal. Yet the SAT scandal
demonstrated the need for more accountability, not less. Student media provide necessary
external oversight by informing CMC students and the Claremont community about what is
happening at CMC. Yet to do so, they must have access to administrators who are free to speak
openly and candidly. The interactions between our writers and CMC administrators should not
be mediated by an office explicitly devoted to public relations.
CMC prides itself on its close-knit community, and rightfully so. Yet when it comes to fostering
an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, this policy is a step in the wrong direction. Trust
administrators to accurately represent CMC and its policies, and to carefully explain their
own perspectives on a given issue. And trust our publications to ethically communicate those
perspectives to a community of students that deserves access to information about CMC’s
policies and the people who shape them.