A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA

SACMedia

We Will Not Be Silenced

Despite what the administration suggests, we know our role as student press
Graphic+by+Alinna+Boonklun%2FSAC.Media
Graphic by Alinna Boonklun/SAC.Media

Public Safety is once again interfering with the student media’s ability to effectively do their job on campus. The latest incident that occurred was on April 3 when a SAC.Media reporter attempted to interview student witnesses about the incident. The students told the SAC.Media reporter that Mt. SAC public safety officers directed them to not give any information to anyone, “especially the student press” and were “not allowed” to give the reporters their names.

This is not only a violation of the First Amendment rights of students, but also a violation of the officer’s First Amendment rights. It also prevents the student media from effectively reporting and covering issues as they unfold on campus.

Professor of Journalism and Adviser of Student Media Toni Albertson and Journalism Program Project Expert Albert Serna, a former Editor-in-Chief of SAC.Media, met with Mt. SAC President and CEO William Scroggins in the fall 2018 semester. Albertson and Serna addressed the issue of public safety refusing to speak to the student media, and the issue of public safety officers directing the student media to marketing. Albertson explained that this is a violation of the public safety officer’s First Amendment rights. Scroggins assured that he would take care of this within 24 hours.

Nothing has changed.

In 2014, when Serna was on the staff, he wrote an editorial addressing these same problems. “The communication flow between the Mountaineer staff and Mt. SAC Public Safety has, for the past couple of years, been difficult. Between denying photographers access to scenes in public spaces citing the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act HIPPA and threatening staff reporters with disciplinary action for inquiring about any specific incident, the department has thus limited the information we are able to present to the campus community.”

In 2015, SAC.Media editor and Substance Magazine Features Editor Jennifer Sandy also addressed these issues. After responding to sirens heard on campus, reporters were told by a public safety officer that there had been a small electrical fire. The officer added that he and the rest of the public safety department had been told not to answer the student media’s questions and said, “We can’t talk to you. Well, we’ve been advised not to talk to you guys.”

This is not to say that anyone is obligated or bound to speak to the student media. The Student Press Law Center SPLC is an independent, non-partisan non-profit which “works to promote, support and defend the First Amendment and press freedom rights of high school and college journalists and their advisers.” SAC.Media consulted with Mike Hiestand, Senior Legal Counsel SPLC on Monday and were told “The school cannot gag students. They can try and ‘persuade’ students not to talk to the media, but they can’t prevent them from doing so.”

When Sandy wrote the editorial in 2015, Mt. SAC was also in violation of the Clery Act.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, is a federal statute that requires police and public safety departments to maintain a daily crime log of “reported crimes that fall within their jurisdiction. This crime log must be made available to the public during daily business hours.” It requires that the crime log reflect the most recent 60 days of reported activity, but older records can be requested, which must be answered within 48 business hours of receipt of the request.

Mt. SAC Public Safety is once again in violation.

The campus’ daily crime log documenting what transpired on April 3, which is public record, was supposed to be updated within 48 hours of the incident. It was not. We also requested the incident report the same day, in an email to Stephanie Bolechowski, Administrative Specialist IV, at 3:51 p.m and left a voicemail on April 4 directly for Interim Police Chief Michael C. Williams. We have received no response.

On April 5, SAC.Media news editor Joshua Sanchez followed up with public safety in order to obtain the report. He was told Bolechowski was not there to respond regarding the status of the report. When he followed up on Monday, April 8, Sanchez was told the person who redacts the reports was not in and that the report was not ready. Prior reports Sanchez requested on March 26 were not ready either. As of April 9, the crime log has not been updated. Sanchez contacted Bolechowski again, and she said the reports were being redacted by Williams and that he had not been in the office yet. She also said she was not sure if the incident was related to the petty theft incident in the crime log that also occurred on April 3 around 1:30 p.m.

These new violations have resulted in SAC.Media contacting the Student Press Law Center for guidance in the next steps to take.

In addition to the ongoing communication issues and violations, Mt. SAC President William Scroggins questioned the ability of SAC.Media reporters to do their job.

Scroggins was recently interviewed by editors of SAC.Media regarding the public forum held on campus in search for a new police chief. They asked why students were not informed and why there were no students in attendance. Scroggins said Mt. SAC students should take it upon themselves to seek information about events and public forums that happen on campus. When asked why students were not notified, and why this forum was not put on the student portal or notified through student email, Scroggins’ response was, “You seem to be hung up on some notification system. Perhaps you should do more [to notify students] particularly as a member of the press.” He added, “Your job is to prioritize those messages to students, is it not?”

No, it is not the responsibility of the student press to serve as communications for the president’s office.

The student press was not notified of the forum until the day of when Albertson received a notification. In an effort to see if students knew about the forum, SAC.Media staff members conducted a survey on campus to find out if students knew about it. Out of 40 random students surveyed, only two students knew about the forum and responded that they only knew because a faculty member told them.

Jill Dolan, spokesperson and director of public affairs, and administrative specialist Cynthia Orr, confirmed to SAC.Media that announcements sent to student portals are requested by the president’s office. They did not know whether that was done this time. SAC.Media confirmed that the notification was not put on the portal.

Features Editor Abraham Navarro explained to Scroggins that it is not the student media’s job to prioritize messages to students. Scroggins responded, “I suggest you rethink your role here on campus.”

The student media does not act in a public information/public relations role. Instead, the student media’s role is to serve as the voice of the students, and to cover stories of importance to the campus and local community. An example of such a story would be the outcry from students and faculty who did not want an armed police force on campus.

The role of the student media also is to provide accurate, unbiased and timely information for the student body, faculty, administration and the local community.

It is to hold the administration, Associated Students, Mt. SAC Board of Trustees, and faculty accountable.

To clarify, the student media does not serve as a mouthpiece for the marketing and public relations department, or as the president’s public information office, nor is it the student media’s job to gather all information from a department whose sole purpose is to paint the college in a positive light. We take pride in clearly knowing who and how we serve as the media.

We provide an open flow of information so that everyone can be informed about what is happening on campus and locally. We are a non-partisan publication, and with the exception of the opinion and editorial section, our news is unbiased and well-researched. We understand and fully accept our role on campus.

To be referred to marketing time and time again when we are trying to do our jobs as reporters, and for Scroggins to suggest that we “work with” Associated Students, proves that the administration is not clear on our position.

If there are any questions in the administration’s mind as to what our role on this campus is, then why would there be a limitation on students to speak to us? Our job cannot be carried out effectively due to interference from public safety and whomever gave them the command to limit student voices.

SAC.Media continues to win General Excellence for its publications and First Place Awards for its writing and reporting from state and national news organizations. No matter what limits continue to be placed on us, we will work to seek the truth and report it. The Mt. SAC administration and the departments who work under it, should give us the respect that a free student press on campus deserves.

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About the Contributors
Brigette Lugo, Sports Editor
Brigette Lugo is the sports editor of SAC.Media. She is majoring in Spanish multimedia and her favorite things are The Smiths, family, and telling everyone she's Nicaraguan and Panamanian.
Ferry Baylon, Editor in Chief
Ferry Baylon is the editor in chief of @SAConScene on Twitter. She finds great comfort in reading books, crime shows, pizza, K-pop, and Britney Spears. Her ultimate goal in life is to become an inspiration to someone.
Andres Soto, Author
Natalie Lu, Editor in Chief
Natalie Lu is the former editor-in-chief of SAC.Media. You'll generally find her listening to K-pop, watching Brooklyn 99, gushing over her two cats or finding out what weird thing is trending on social media now.
Lauren Berny, Author

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