Entire university community should celebrate student press freedom

The Horizon, along with many other college newspapers across the country, celebrated Student Press Freedom Day on Jan. 29. In celebration of our student press freedom, we reflected on our role at the university and assessed the state of our independence at IU Southeast.

The Horizon is proud to represent the vibrant, diverse student population at our university, a school often overlooked even though we have much to offer.

Most of our stories reflect this—we largely write about campus events, student activities, and quirky professors. Our storytelling extends to the local community, too, when we write about local artists and community institutions.

None of these stories strain our student press freedom. No one, no administrator, reads our stories about student clubs or campus events and thinks our leash is too long.

But sometimes what we publish does test our freedom. Sometimes, the things we say upset those in our community.

When we published our editorial about the university’s inaction following a bigoted SGA recommendation bill that threatened student safety, we tested our student press freedom.

When we published our editorials about our university’s lack of transparency regarding The Horizon’s public records request in the fall of 2019, we tested our student press freedom.

When we showed this semester that the university’s inaction after a significant lamppost outage caused students to stumble around in the dark with flashlights to navigate our campus, we tested our student press freedom.

But no matter how strained our freedoms are, IU Southeast must hold steadfast in its commitment to being our community’s marketplace of ideas and a place of integrity.

The Horizon reached out to university administrators during our hazing investigation. Disappointingly, those administrators, instead of responding to our questions, referred us to public relations spokespeople in Bloomington.

If our university administrators refuse to speak on essential issues, especially those relating to student safety, how is this an institution of integrity?

If our school leaders only want to talk to the student press when it makes them look good, they are stomping on our student press freedom. Why would we want to keep writing difficult stories if the administration thwarts our attempts to seek truth?

A tight-lipped administration is contrary to every value our university holds.

As students, we place immense trust in our administrators. That those same administrators feel no need to comment on essential campus issues is inexcusable.

The Horizon calls on our administrators to be transparent and unafraid to answer questions about their decision making. Any public official, including university administrators, should at all times be willing and able to answer to their own actions.

The Horizon has realized this year that our university thinks it answers only to itself.

Administrators, when you think we have gone too far, tell us. When you think our reporting is incorrect, tell us. But please do not hide behind the nonanswers provided by Bloomington’s public relations spokespeople.