Letter to the Editor from former Beacon editors

To readers of the Beacon:

It’s with heavy hearts that we learned of the end of student press freedom at our alma mater, following the approval of a new constitution that will essentially allow student leaders to silence critics in student media, and in particular, this newspaper.

After each spending four years dedicated to working at The Berkeley Beacon while at Emerson, and watching with pride as the paper continued to improve year after year, it was dismaying to see the Student Government Association actively rally to destroy The Beacon’s funding structure, itself set up to distance the paper from the government it primarily was tasked to cover.

If SGA officials were truly concerned about the amount of money The Beacon spends each year, why was a proposal not put forward to curb the percentage of funds the paper receives instead? Was the all-or-nothing approach really necessary?

The paper’s constitutional guarantee of funding came more than two decades ago after a particularly nasty period of relations between the paper and student goverment, which included threats to cut the paper off. Under the rightful guidance of administrative advisors, the deal was struck to keep the paper alive with a guarantee of funding, without fear that critical coverage would be met with budget slashing.

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Ironically, the SGA’s latest push to silence The Beacon comes at an apex in the paper’s quality and professionalism. In much of the 20-plus years since the 8 percent guarantee, the paper went through many rough spots: A sex column dustup shortly after the turn of the millennium, a plagiarism scandal in 2005, and a major controversy in 2006 when the paper reprinted a political cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed. This all frequently came at the expense of the paper’s core mission: to cover the SGA with a critical eye.

Recent classes of Beacon staffers not only have taken the organization leaps and bounds forward in the digital age, but also proudly returned to their roots as a voice for Emerson students, and in particular keeping accountable student leaders. The Beacon’s efforts to highlight and analyze every change in the Constitution went far above and beyond the SGA’s own information, and its reporters exposed false credentials touted by one candidate.

Yet instead of allowing the paper to continue doing its job without threatening its very existence, today’s SGA leaders have decided to instead attack. In what seems to be an eerie kickoff to a very tense—and ultimately anti-productive—relationship, incoming president Tau Zaman responded to an online discussion of the Beacon story highlighting the false campaign credentials of one candidate with a warning of sorts: “I’m trusting that all the reporting on this has been fact-checked thoroughly…”.

We can only hope Zaman and other SGA officials will exercise a greater level of objective judiciousness when evaluating funding for the paper.

Nathan Hurst
Julie Polovina
Christopher J. Girard
Maria Chutchian
Matt Byrne
Gaby Dunn
Paddy Shea
Andrea Gabbidon-Levene
Kimberly Sanfeliz
Richard Cherewich
Steve Klise
Taylor Stafford
Rebecca Anne Flanagan
Patrick Boyle
Fmr. Beacon Editors