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Claremont Independent | April 24, 2014

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CMC would Benefit from an Independent Forum

CMC would Benefit from an Independent Forum
Brad Richardson

We at the Claremont Independent take the “independent” part of our name very seriously. Our publication operates under the principle that, in order to cover the administrations and student organizations of the Claremont Colleges objectively and effectively, complete detachment from those institutions is essential. As a result, the Independent is unique among campus publications in that it purposefully receives zero funding from any of the 5Cs.

It is because of our commitment to journalistic autonomy that the Independent fully endorses the proposal to separate partially the Forum and CMC’s student government, the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC), which will be voted on next Monday, Nov. 4, at CMC’s student senate. While the proposal does not completely sever the (particularly financial) ties that bind the Forum to the very student government that it purports to cover, the reform measure marks substantial progress and improvement toward the kind of independent and probing journalism of which we need to see more in Claremont.

The prospective amendment was announced Sept. 15 at an ASCMC Executive Board meeting by Forum Chief Operating Officer Nathan Falk ‘14, Forum Editor-in-Chief Ana Kakkar ’14, and ASCMC President Gavin Landgraf ’14, and is supported by both Forum and ASCMC representatives.

The reform measure consists of two main points: “The [Forum] Editor-in-Chief will no longer be an employee of ASCMC” and “The [Forum] Editor-in-Chief will no longer be chosen by the election committee of ASCMC.”

Under the current system, the Forum editor-in-chief is placed in an untenable position, fraught with potential conflicts of interest. Most acutely, the editor-in-chief is both charged with determining journalistic content directly related to the practices and policies of ASCMC while also being a paid employee of that very organization.

The editor-in-chief is similarly hindered by having access to ASCMC’s closed-minute discussions and confidential email dialogues, which effectively inhibits him or her from coordinating content and prompting investigative journalism related to ASCMC.

Finally, the format for selecting the Forum editor-in-chief, via the ASCMC Elections Committee, allows ASCMC to select a candidate beholden to their will.

A more autonomous Forum would provide a crucial check on ASCMC – an organization that has not exactly been without controversy in recent years. It would help ensure a student government that is more accountable to those it exists to serve – the students.

While this amendment would not grant the Forum complete autonomy – because, among other things, the publication would still receive funding from ASCMC – these proposals to improve the independence of the Forum’s editorial leadership are a very positive first step and should be approved by CMC’s senate.

Few had a better take on the matter of an independent, courageous and vigilant press – and its proximate nexus to human liberty – than Thomas Jefferson, who famously inspired James Madison to propose the Bill of Rights in 1789, including the guarantee of a free press found in what would become the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Jefferson offered the following, enduring wisdom: “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Edit: It was initially reported that CMC’s senate would vote on the Forum amendment Oct. 28; however, the date of the vote has been changed to Nov. 4. The article has been updated to reflect this change.

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