By Michael Ortiz
Every week during the academic year, dozens of passionate students dedicate time from their already thinly-stretched schedules to the relentless pursuit of the truth. “Keeping the Hofstra community informed since 1935” is more than just a tagline on the front page of a newspaper; it is the philosophy at the heart of every story The Hofstra Chronicle publishes. It is what has driven me – first as a staff writer and now as editor-in-chief – to curate work that is respected for its relevancy, accuracy and tact in presentation.
Aside from being students and journalists, the people working their asses off week in and week out are members of other clubs and organizations and have jobs and internships. Their job is already difficult, but that is exacerbated by a public relations machine that is determined to preserve the university’s image – even if that means keeping the community in the dark.
Over the course of my time at the publication, we have broken out of the “college newspaper” mold, still covering the many important events throughout the year, but also undertaking significant investigations and exposing the flaws of the university we love in an effort to make it better for those who come after us.
We have shined a spotlight on health concerns with culinary providers; the potential harm of costly mental health services; the plight of the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities on a very white campus; the perception that Title IX-related issues, specifically regarding faculty, aren’t being addressed transparently; and hazing in Greek life organizations, among other meaningful discussions that would not have taken place if not for our work.
However, this already daunting task has become more and more difficult, as administrators at times hide behind protective laws like HIPPA and FERPA to avoid answering questions about situations that are not protected, and departments send reporters into a labyrinth of redirection to other departments until we are forced to settle for no comment.
This semester I have seen these tactics far more often – and it needs to stop.
Reporters have been forced out of the School of Medicine while working on stories despite them having every right to be there. Editors have been stymied from writing stories on lesser known athletes because “there are three or four much better story ideas.” (Those comments were later walked back.) We have to deal with claims of no availability for an interview, making us resort to settling for crafted emailed responses – not to mention the inaccessibility of the university’s president.
After a recent event, an administrator told me President Stuart Rabinowitz was unavailable for questions because he had a private reception right after. When I asked for a quick question before he left, she told me he was “gone,” despite the fact that I was staring right at him. (He later walked by himself back to his office – there was no reception.)
I still managed to ask him a couple questions because I’m not one to take no for an answer. But a younger, less experienced reporter would have been intimidated and discouraged to have been lied to their face in such a blatant way. This was not the first time something like this has happened to avoid granting an interview, but I didn’t mention my qualms, as I try my best to maintain a positive relationship with the people we have to deal with on such a regular basis. And this isn’t every situation, or every administrator. But these experiences are far too common and are hindering these students’ ability to learn and grow as reporters.
As I move on and The Chronicle gains new leadership, I’m sure there will be a sigh of relief at the sight of a different name at the top of the masthead. But I promise you that will be short-lived. Because there is no singular name or person that drives the resolve of the editors and writers at The Chronicle.
We don’t make the news, we report it. So for administrators who claim it’s “Excellent to see positive coverage in the Hofstra Chronicle,” understand that the “negative” coverage you so despise will only continue as long as you don’t make the necessary changes to avoid it.
Without that coverage, Hofstra students would still be eating food made under subpar health conditions, vulnerable students would probably still be having their genitals doused with hot sauce and Rabinowitz would likely still not be aware that the people paying his over $1 million salary can’t afford to talk to someone about how shitty life is as a college student.
But Lackmann “Culinary” Services is gone, Sigma Pi is banned from Hofstra forever and believe me – now he knows.
So, to the Public Safety officer who asked me when we will stop writing bad stories about the department: We will when we no longer have to.
The views and opinions expressed in the Editorial section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.