August 24, 2019

Lack of Transparency Endangers Students’ Trust

By Taylor Ann Bradford (’19, Contributor)

On Jan. 30, Gordon College Student Government hosted a special forum where President D. Michael Lindsay explained the current financial situation of the college and answered questions from students. Prior to the president’s detailed explanation of why certain decisions will be made that will affect the Gordon community in the near future, GCSA president Josh Grambow addressed the audience stating that, in compliance with the administration, the minutes proceeding would be off the record in which no tape recording, quoting, or streaming would be allowed.

For clarification, the request per the administration and Grambow is not unheard of. Rather, while rare, it is legal for non-public officials to request forums and meetings to be off the record. Massachusetts state law only requires public access to minutes and recordings of the meetings of public bodies. As Gordon does not qualify as a public body, any Gordon-sponsored meeting or forum is exempt from those requirements.

However, just because it is the administration’s right does not make it just or fair given the circumstances. It is to my understanding that the special forum was an opportunity to inform the student body about changes that will be made, actions that people within power are taking to care for the community, and how the student body can prepare. Because the forum was “off the record,” many students who were not able to attend the forum due to class, practice, events, and work were not able to hear from their institution’s president.  

Transparency, I believe, is what administration and GCSA were striving for when they decided to hold this special forum. However, their efforts were diminished the moment they prevented the student newspaper from adequately reporting on the forum.

I understand that we want to be careful when it comes to sensitive subjects relating to financial cuts. However, we need to stop seeing the press as our enemies. Yes, we have all seen publications outside (and maybe even inside) Gordon that have published things that we feel don’t get at the whole picture of what is going on. That does not mean that the press is seeking to be malicious, it means that they are human.

So, what does transparency look like from our administration?

Originally published on Jan. 25, the Tartan reported President Lindsay stating, in a moment of vulnerability to the faculty and staff at a Community meeting, that he mourns the fact that Gordon College is in financial difficulties and acknowledges that it was a leadership failure on his part that we are here—something that he deeply regrets. Lindsay continues to explain that, due to the current financial situation the college is in, hard and difficult decisions will have to be made. Many voices of the community fear that those “hard and difficult” decisions suggest letting go of beloved faculty and staff members, cutting of programs, or loss of dwindling departments.

I was saddened and frustrated when the direct quote from President Lindsay was removed from the article hours after it had been posted. It is transparency and honesty such as Lindsay’s remarks at the Community meeting that we desire as students.

How will the student body be informed in a timely and detailed manner about the changes of their institution? I’m not sure, and unfortunately, I don’t know if it will be from Gordon. Just because we claim to live in a bubble does not mean that things don’t get passed across the grapevine. Other publications are apt to hear what is happening at our institution as the issues here are a part of a larger conversation in higher education.

Moody’s Investors Service concluded that at least 25% of private colleges are now running deficits. “At public colleges,” writes Forbes’ Michael Horn, “even in a good economy, expenses have outpaced revenue the past three years.”

In 2018, twelve private colleges and universities closed in the Northeast alone. The total number of institutions of higher education, both private and public, whose classrooms remain empty is estimated to be 51. Green Mountain College, Newbury College, and New Hampshire Institute of Art closed in 2019.

The updated list of colleges and universities that have or are estimated to close can be found at Education Dive’s website: https://www.educationdive.com/news/tracker-college-and-university-closings-and-consolidation/539961/

Give journalists a chance to report the truth. Treat the newspaper and those that work there the same way you would someone working at CEC, GCSA, ASF, CEL and every other acronymic organization on campus: with love and respect. The Tartan’s goal is to inform the community, not tear it down.

Also, The Tartan is not The Bell.

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