Yesterday, King’s Students’ Union council went into four in-camera sessions, totaling more than 90 minutes of undocumented time. A quarter of the entire meeting was spent in secrecy, leaving our reporters on the other side of the Boardroom doors.
Let’s not kid ourselves here. The majority of time spent in these in-camera sessions was probably not spent discussing anything damning or malicious. For the most part, the KSU uses these in-camera times as strategy sessions so council can speak frankly about hypothetical plans and their legalities without sending anyone to the chopping block. That said, it’s pretty reminiscent of city council’s “secrecy” of late and we’re sorry to see the KSU follow that trend.
It’s a trend not just coming through in KSU council meetings. We’ve received two press releases during this athletics fee debate – the first about referendum results and the second about a letter writing campaign and fitness class protest. Yes, we’ve heard the argument for press releases as a way to give out information – but our job is not to reprint press releases. The KSU needs to be willing to answer questions from King’s journalists, who are writing stories for King’s students.
KSU votes to ‘announce its dissent’ from athletics fee approval
Last night, they were unwilling to explain what happened in-camera and what they had decided to do, except to say they would issue a press release. We’re aware the details of the in-camera session cannot be discussed, but when council members direct us to press releases instead of being questioned openly and honestly about their decisions, as elected student representatives, this is a gesture of secrecy and silence on their part. If all they’re going to do is have a fitness class protest, why should we care about that, especially as the entirety of their gesture of dissent?
The whole situation is condescending. To send out a press release without answering questions fully – especially at a school with such well-established relationships between student media and the union – is a weak move on the part of the union and an attempt to frame our coverage.
We value our working relationship with the union. Our office is located next door to the KSU office, and we appreciate being able to drop in and ask them questions on a casual basis every day.
KSU executive or council members have asked us on at least three occasions this semester about the “angle” our stories would be taking, including last night after the in-camera session – something that we wouldn’t tell the Prime Minister if he asked. It’s not appropriate at all. We trust and support our writers to do a good, honest job, no matter what story they’re working on, and no matter what step they are at along the road of learning to be a journalist. Those in the stories cannot be privy to the final draft before publication.
We understand the need for the KSU to have a working relationship with the media outlets in town who receive releases. Our purpose, as journalists with the Watch, is, yes, to report on King’s news events, but also to question those in the stories – not just the administration, but the KSU, as well. This is our job as journalists. We simply ask that council shows our reporters respect by speaking with them, rather than directing them to a press release.
Ben Harrison and Rachel Ward