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An Open Letter to President Pamela Gann

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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.

Sincerely,

Editors' signatures

PDF Version of Open Letter

Featured Organization: The Keck Journal of Foreign Affairs

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The Keck Journal of Foreign Affairs was founded to connect the students, faculty, and alumni of the Claremont Colleges who have an interest in international relations. The Journal serves as a forum for their research, analysis, experiences, and perspectives on current global events. We also publish interviews with leaders on the world stage who that the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies has brought to campus. Through the Journal and the initiatives of the Keck Center, we aim to promote further discussion on and involvement in international relations.

The primary output of the Journal has been through long-form articles, but this semester, we are adding a series of blogs to complement more substantial, academic pieces so we can cover not only longer-term trends but also events as they are happening. If you would like to write for us, whether through traditional articles or with blog posts, or if you would like to contribute in another way, email us at keckjournal@gmail.com.

www.keckjournal.com

www.facebook.com/keckjournal

@KeckJournal

ASCMC Elections Committee’s Exception Yields Controversial Outcome

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On Thursday, Feb. 26th, the CMC Class of 2015  elected Mohammad “Moe” Abdulrahim as Junior Class President.

ASCMC requires that class president candidates  submit 50 different  signatures from classmates. ASCMC set the signature submission deadline from 10:30 to 11:00 pm on Feb. 22nd.

Abdulrahim submitted his signatures at 11:17 pm. His petition violated the ASCMC Constitution: “The Elections Committee will hold a meeting for all candidates at which time all petitions must be submitted. No petitions may be submitted after the close of this meeting” (IV.B.2.b.iii).

The ASCMC Elections Committee passed a motion to accept the late signatures due to the nature of the circumstances affecting his late submission.

In an email to the Claremont Independent, an ASCMC representative stated that a “sudden and unexpected academic obligation” delayed the submission of Abdulrahim’s signatures.  The representative further stated that the signatures were late “due to factors beyond his control.” Another ASCMC representative confirmed that Abdulrahim’s conflict occurred between 10:30 and 11:00 pm. Abdulrahim has not responded to our request for details on the nature of his academic conflict.

The Committee’s actions bring into question whether Abdulrahim’s former involvement in ASCMC influenced the Elections Committee’s decision to make such an exception. Abdulrahim is currently finishing his term as the ASCMC Student Life Chair; his duties include planning and executing all school-wide non-alcoholic events. The Student Life Chair also sits on the ASCMC Executive Board. Four out of the seven (a majority) members of the Elections Committee are members of the Executive Board, including the President, Vice President, and President Pro-Tempore. According the last fully available ASCMC Constitution via ascmc.org, “in the event that an immediate decision regarding the Election Rules is necessary, the Chair shall have the power to make immediate decisions, subject to later approval or reversal by the committee. Both approval and reversal shall require a simple majority vote of the committee” (IV.B.1.b). (As of Feb. 26th, 2013, the ASCMC Constitution is not currently available at ascmc.org.)

Although the Elections Committee’s vote appears to be constitutional, the composition of the Elections Committee favors existing members of the Executive Board.

2013  saw a close election that required precise actions by the Elections Committee. Although candidates won by slim, measurable margins, the underlying petition process proved subjective and  inconsistent.