Don’t hinder exchange between faculty, media

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Amanda Graef

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.

What next?

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.

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1 Comment

  1. Jesse Clingman on

    Don’t Hinder Exchange Between Faculty, Media
    September 17, 2018

    To the editor,

    This is understandable how this can be interpreted as a violation of 1st amendment. I see both point of views when you spoke of this in your article. Press should have the right along with the folk that they are interviewing.

    I need to mention to you before I go further that I am a student at SAC, studying about communications. I am not employed by the school, in fact I’m a retired Army wounded veteran. This not my own opinion, just a viewpoint from what I can see.

    What I read about the proposal was that you, as an employee of the district, as where you receive your pay checks, needs to ensure the longevity of the company your working for by not speaking anything that would jeopardize it or misinform. You must speak to PR to ensure this especially representing the district establishment.

    On the other hand, they said this only if your representing the district within. If you were representing yourself, you would not have to go through the PR department to speak with the press.

    I agree with the proposal only for the simple fact that if I’m running my own business, and one of my employee’s says something to the press without my knowledge that was not 100% fact and it affected my customer base, good business just turned to bad business.

    The “so called” business I would like to think I established and was my business, no one else’s, but my own. An employee that wasn’t factual when speaking without my consent I would consider a violation of our 4th amendment for the fact it was about my business.

    I know this is at a greater scale but how this can play a part when running the district and the reasons why they made this proposal to me is understandable.

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