Being Clear About Transparency – The Oracle
While reviewing the College of Liberal Arts curriculum, the dean’s office noticed a security breach, prompting a broader discussion about transparency.
It has come to the attention of the Faculty Institutional Relations Committee (FIRC), which oversees the affairs of the Liberal Arts College (CLA), that student journalists have been attending CLA meetings online throughout the year. ‘college year.
With CLA in the midst of a curriculum review, faculty are communicating more than ever in online spaces that, due to COVID-19 and new technologies, are more accessible to the masses, on or off campus.
Oracle and HUSC representatives have been invited to attend CLA meetings in an effort to be transparent and communicate effectively with the student body. There has been a long-standing invitation to Oracle staff that dates back to before virtual meetings. According to CLA Dean Marcela Kostihova, an assistant in the office has been inviting the Oracle for 29 years. Despite this long-standing invitation, FIRC members and faculty were not fully aware of the students’ attendance.
the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) argues that governing body meetings, like CLA faculty meetings, should be open to the public and journalists.
The SPLC writes that “state laws generally stipulate that if the majority of a government body – decision-making or even advisory – meets to discuss public business, the meeting is open to the public with limited exceptions, such as discussion of legal strategy in an ongoing trial.
Because Hamline is a private institution, the FIRC drafted guidelines that the Oracle agreed to declare that CLA faculty meetings are not “public meetings” and that faculty have the right to supervise and to regulate participation.
What was first seen as a data leak turned out to be a misunderstanding, impacted by FIRC factors and faculty obliviousness to student attendance and journalist confusion over this which was and was not confidential.
According to the student journalist who attended the meeting that opened this conversation, a link to the program review data was posted without context in the Google Meets chat. This link has been copied resulting in a violation of certain confidential elements. None of this data has been published. Although the Google site used by the faculty had restricted access, the document the reporter accessed did not have restricted access. According to Dean Marcela Kostihova, it was clarified that this information was confidential.
This resulted in miscommunication and confusion between the CLA Dean’s office, FIRC, faculty, and Oracle, which opened up a greater conversation about transparency and access.
“There was never a decision to ban the Oracle, but we wanted to sort of clarify the policy and in particular, we want to let the faculty know if there are any journalists at the meeting. , that what they say can and could be used in a story,” said FIRC president and political science professor Joseph Peschek.
Oracle reporters will still be allowed in these spaces and the committee and other offices have created steps for everyone to understand and feel most comfortable moving forward.
In response to the situation, Oracle executives agreed to new reporting standards for reporters attending meetings.
To maintain transparency, Oracle journalists will be asked to identify themselves at the start of meetings. Meetings will not be recorded, a practice they already follow, and journalists will refrain from copying, pasting or recording what is posted in the chat.
According to the FIRC, it wants to do its part to support students to prepare them for professional standards outside of Hamline when it comes to reporting.