Ah, another school year and an opportunity to start afresh, anew. President Fred Gainous has vowed to improve customer service for students and other visitors to the University. We at The Famuan will be monitoring the University’s progress toward this goal.
One aspect in particular that will be under scrutiny will be the University’s ability to operate in the “sunshine.” That means as a public institution, the University should observe and abide by Florida’s open records and open meetings laws. In the past, this has not been the case. Either reporters would be given the runaround or they would be denied access altogether. It is amazing that a public institution that has been awarded a public trust would be the very institution violating that trust. This must change.
At FAMU, we have our own version of a good ol’ boys’ network. In the network, members expect the student newspaper to report only glowing reports of accomplishments and grandeur. But that is not the function of the press. The press is supposed to be a watchdog over government. Most reports are favorable, but some will not be. Regardless of the barometer, the people have a right to know how public institutions are operating.
Of course, The Famuan will not exercise its full open records and meeting rights, which can include viewing e-mails, datebooks and attending most meetings, but we would like to know it is possible should the need arise.
One reason for barring reporters from public meetings would be to cloak inefficiencies. Doing business at FAMU can sometimes be the equivalent of an obstacle course. President Gainous has assured us that this behavior will change. The Famuan is here to monitor and to make sure it does.
A Woman’s Worth
Last term many of you enjoyed the literary stylings of J. Danielle Daniels. For some of you, she became the woman you loved to hate when she should have been the woman you loved to dispute. That is the purpose of the opinions page- to give opinions and to spark discussion.
Daniels does not write so that everyone can agree with her. That would be maintaining the status quo. And that would not be a good thing.
Her last series of columns criticizing Halle Berry sparked the most outrage. Disagreement is good. The more ideas in the marketplace the better.
But a lively discussion was downgraded into a squabble about who has the right to criticize Berry. Daniels received “hate mail” stating “she should not judge Berry harshly because Berry is a sistah.” Poppycock. As Tavis Smiley has said, we need to hold our people accountable. And accountability sometimes includes public criticism.
Readers, which include journalism school graduates, should understand that Daniels is entitled to her opinion and nobody can say that her opinion has no merit.
Readers tried to convert Daniels by flooding her e-mail with advice and psychoanalysis. Such a move was inappropriate. What would have been appropriate would be to write letters to the editor opposing Daniels’ views. We need to respect her right to have her say even if we disagree with what she is saying. That is what free speech is all about.
This semester, readers can expect more in-your-face columns from Daniels, and you can also expect Daniels to handle your disagreement, outrage and anger in a professional manner. After all, if she can dish it out, certainly she can take it.
Valerie D. White is an assistant professor of journalism and the adviser to The Famuan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.