The Stylus, the State University of New York at Brockport's student newspaper, is currently at odds with its funding body, the Brockport Student Government. The controversy, which has gained attention as a dispute over free speech, can be seen alternatively as an immature and severely mishandled disagreement.
The issue stemmed from the alleged removal of several copies of The Stylus by BSG Treasurer Kyle Kirchgraber. According to The Stylus, Kirchgraber confiscated the papers to prove that The Stylus was printing excessive copies of the paper. In reaction, Stylus Editor-in-Chief William Matthias wrote an editorial categorizing Kirchgrader's actions as theft and accusing some BSG members of possessing a "hidden agenda." BSG's retaliation asked Matthias to print a retraction and resign.
The Lamron, the Student Association and the Geneseo student body can learn a lot from the circumstances at Brockport. More can be taken from the situation than a reminder of the importance of free speech.
The Lamron is a student newspaper comparable in many ways to The Stylus, so we can sympathize with Matthias' sentiments. Much of the attention paid to this controversy, however, has overlooked glaring issues at the root of the problem. While the students' dispute touches significant topics, it ultimately winds down to a petty display of misunderstanding and inflexibility.
Look at some of the details involved: Matthias' "libelous" editorial admits to the organization's failure to distribute copies of an old issue that Matthias says "wasn't the most compelling." Though BSG's actions were completely unprofessional, the point it was trying to make may warrant reflection. College newspapers must constantly review printing costs and advertising revenues. It could well be the case that the Stylus' budget is inflated.
These are all issues to which The Lamron can relate, and topics that we consider frequently. Geneseo's SA, fortunately, has been gracious about entering into conversations on these topics, though, rather than pulling juvenile, backhanded stunts like that exercised by BSG.
The Stylus has the right to vocalize its frustration about BSG's measures. The paper's staff is comprised of fee-paying students offered a chance to participate in real-time experience in journalism. For BSG to consider tearing that opportunity away without consultation of the students is disrespectful and careless.
Why hasn't each party considered this a lesson in media law instead of battling one another over this gaffe?
There is a very apparent problem in BSG's treatment of campus media groups that serve as watchdogs over the student government. If the members of BSG care for their integrity, they should consider how to handle criticism with more patience and thought in the future. If the facts of this controversy are true, BSG also needs to take a serious look at how it conducts business.
Ultimately, both BSG and The Stylus share the responsibility of providing services to the students of Brockport. Before using their respective platforms to launch public attacks on one another, both parties should consider whether inter-organization conflicts might be more appropriately resolved in quieter, calmer settings. It seems a dose of professionalism and practicality on the part of everyone could lead to a positive learning environment in which undergraduates can prepare for the future.