The proposed communications policy violates First Amendment.
The Alamo Colleges District proposed a communications policy that would require faculty and staff to procure permission from their college’s public relations department before speaking with the media, student or otherwise.
It is not uncommon for organizations or companies to train their employees on how to conduct themselves during media interviews, but that is not what this proposed policy does.
In an Aug. 14 interview with The Ranger, Kristi Wyatt, associate vice chancellor of communications and engagement, said Alamo Colleges employees are considered to be speaking on behalf of an organization if their title is used in a news story.
So if faculty or staff members want to freely discuss research or projects with the media, must they leave their credentials at the door?
Dumb idea. Employees become experts in their area because of their association with the district. That’s called good public relations.
Having employees check with PR before media interviews regardless of content is not a form of training; it is a method of control.
As the proposal is currently written, it will stifle discussion students and the public can learn from.
It also tramples employees’ First Amendment rights. See our story on the policy on Page 1, and online read the policy and a lengthy, point-by-point complaint to the district from FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Timeliness is one of the major tenets of news and if reporters are unable to quickly write relevant stories because of this proposal, they might have to move on.
The ability of a reporter to write a timely article has been compromised. Again, a loss of good public relations.
Getting information from specific sources also will become difficult if they have not passed the Texas Open Records Act course.
District employees are already drowning under the pressure of district-mandated initiatives.
Will the district give the colleges funding to hire more public relations personnel to compensate for the increase in calls.
The proposed policy does not inspire confidence in the district’s proclaimed allegiance to “transparency.”
This district cannot claim to be transparent when its workers are gagged.
No surprise the district web page titled “Compliance and Transparency” does not actually mention transparency.
If the board of trustees wants to enhance its public image and live up to the promise of transparency, making sure employees can swiftly and effectively communicate with the news media is a good start.