An open letter to President Pelton from an Emerson alumna

By Channah Barkhordari

Dear President Pelton,

I’m writing to you as an Emerson alumna and a former staff member and editor of The Berkeley Beacon. I was disappointed to learn that recently, the annual funding that goes to the only college paper on campus is now under the purview of the student government association. It surprises me that such a notion is capable of being voted upon and simply become a part of student government jurisdiction; I can’t quite comprehend how it was only the SGA constitution’s language that upheld the longstanding tradition of true freedom of expression and freedom of press at Emerson College, and not a clause of the institution’s own code of conduct.

In my time at Emerson and on the Beacon, I’ve seen the paper offer to the campus and community series after series of honest reporting on the student government’s proceedings. I make no claim that each article was perfect, but their compositions were the sole expressions of the writers who submitted published them. By giving the SGA the power to decide how much funding to allocate the paper, Emerson is stripping our student journalists of the same platform of press without duress.

In “the real world,” if a reporter feels he may not have a job the next day if he writes this or that, if he reports the truth, there is something deeply wrong with the system. Imagine if the Obama administration, or indeed any American government, had the capacity to cut or substantially lower funding to a paper like The New York Times. The idea itself is absurd, because that’s simply not how a free society and free press operates. Funding for newspapers and indeed all publications should be absolutely separate from governmental conduct and decision, precisely because both require independent transparency. The same is true on the college level.

I do not mean to suspect that the SGA will cut funding to the Beacon. Despite this week’s events, I maintain a hope that our student body, its elected leaders, and the administration have more foresight than that. But the mere possibility, the level of illegitimate power and conflict of interest it fosters, is unacceptable.

Get This Week's News

All the big stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning 

I sincerely hope you will take action in restoring a set, satisfactory budget necessary for the operations of the Beacon—one that cannot be altered by the student governments’ weekly meetings. As one who loved Emerson in large part owning to its dedication to its own motto, I ask that you do all that is within your capacity to ensure our college remains a place where we believe in “expression necessary to evolution.” Please allow our student journalists to express themselves. Give them back their voice.

With gratitude,

Channah Barkhordari
Writing, Literature, and Publishg Class of 2010
Fmr. Beacon Editor