Fresno City College has come into a new culture of silence. It seems that especially this semester, the media badge that reporters wear has become a mark akin to the untouchable caste — people to be avoided and ignored at all costs.
Without a doubt, decisions made by many departments directly affect students, but those in positions of authority believe they can act with impunity and not be held accountable. So they decline interviews, provide as little information as possible and practice the classic trick of shifting questions to others.
While some faculty have been more than accommodating to reporters and are more than happy to provide answers and information, many in the administration play a shell game of who gets to answer questions about programs and deals.
Writing stories designed to explain details for students from a student perspective has become a veritable Whack-a-Mole, where directors and heads pop up and disappear, only leading one to another director or head who is just as silent about specifics.
The buck is continually passed and often never ends anywhere but with unanswered questions.
A major problem is that most of the college’s top positions are held on interim basis. At least eight of the highest positions on campus are interim. While there are inevitable difficulties in the hiring process, including finding capable and qualified candidates, these interim positions make finding answers to questions a nearly unsolvable mystery.
Interim staff have to do the best they can, but are limited in terms of their power and full understanding of the college and matters important to student well-being. The interims are not always able to answer questions about protocol, procedure and efficacy due to a short tenure which makes progress difficult to attain.
Additionally, interim staff have to worry about their future more than permanent hires. Often, people with information become afraid of what that information could do. Interviews that reveal more than they would like to let out can leave one feeling vulnerable, and people feel afraid of what that could mean about future prospects here on campus and in other places.
These kinds of facts and details are oftentimes extremely pertinent to student safety and well-being, and students feel they have a right to know what it is kept hidden from them.
Replacing interim with permanent positions is a great place start in getting information out to students who need it. Encouraging an atmosphere of openness and transparency would lead to greater trust and understanding.
Information has become a capital to be traded and hoarded on this campus. Many of those in positions of authority are far too hesitant to trust students out of a fear we are unable to make rational decisions. But, one may submit that irrationality is not unique to students, and trusting that students know what is in their own interest is true wisdom.