Media policy to go into effect

Last Thursday, Student Senate passed a campus events media policy — one of the first of its kind in the country. The policy “grants student media unrestricted and open access to all publicly promoted, student-funded campus events.” This access addresses photography and audio recordings.

The policy will not take affect until the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) approves it in January.
“This is a novel idea,” said senator Joe Arasin (SCS), a junior computer science major. “We’re breaking new ground. Other universities don’t have these policies. It would be great if other universities follow.”
Despite continuing work on the policy since last year, only 20 out of 31 senators were present at Thursday’s meeting. A vote on the policy was going to be postponed to another meeting until the policy’s main proponent, Arasin, arrived and pushed for a unanimous vote despite some lingering doubt.

Under Pennsylvania law, audio recordings may only be made if all parties give their consent, but under the media policy student groups are “strongly encouraged to permit student media to make audio recordings of all publicly promoted events.”

Arasin and senator Kirk Higgins (MCS), a junior majoring in mathematical sciences, hope to expand this policy in the future. At present, it only guarantees student media access to events funded by the student activities fee, but not other events funded by CMU. Arasin hopes to attach the condition of media access to use of CMU facilities. This provision would require a joint policy with the University.
The preamble of the policy states that “members of the CMU community must have access to information with which to make informed decisions in their daily lives.” However, the policy’s primary impetus comes from last year’s speech by Malik Zulu Shabazz, during which two Tartan reporters were forcibly expelled.

Long Pham, chairman of the Academic Affairs committee (Tepper) and a senior business major, confirmed that “the Shabazz incident sparked this.” It also set a new precedent for restricting student media.

The policy was also supported by senator Ben Hackett (H&SS), a senior social and decision sciences major. “Also,” said Hackett, “while some people perhaps thought of this as a reaction to the Shabazz event, in helping write the original ideas, Kirk, Joe, and I were mainly focused on student media organization rights, and not specific events in the past.”

The policy has provisions for the investigation of and punishment for violations of this policy. The policy states that Student Senate may “remove any or all part of the allocated funds from the account of the sponsor of the event” and “recommend further disciplinary action for the sponsor to GSA, Committee on Student Organizations, or Joint Funding Committee.”

“I hope we will never have to investigate and decide on sanctions,” Arasin said. “We hope that the policy itself will be enough of a deterrent.”

Although the media policy’s vote was unanimous, some doubt still lingers in the Senate. Senator Emily Leathers (SCS), a junior computer science major, said, “It’s hard to ask a group about media status. If they don’t know, they may say it will be unrestricted because saying no could endanger their chances of because getting funding.” That could create problems later, such as canceling an event of restricted media access so as not to risk the consequences of violating the policy. This led one student at Thursday’s proceedings to ask: “Are we going to make decisions on funding events based on whether or not the media can go?”

As for non-Senate participation on this policy, Pham said: “It’s hard to know what to do if the students don’t tell us what they want. We need help from student government and the general student body as well. Historically, CMU students have been characterized as an apathetic bloc, and to dispel that notion, students should show more interest and be more attentive to higher-level matters that affect them.”