Mum is not always the word

By SpencerRoush

Columbia’s administration doesn’t make it easy to dig up the dirt for fear answers to tough questions may not send a positive message.

Granted, I’m sure the college isn’t hiding any secrets as daunting as the WikiLeaks cables making top U.S. officials squirm and feel sheepish for being caught red-handed and talking about peers like gum-smacking school girls. I’m also sure the dirt isn’t as juicy as a famous star’s extramarital affair or any other piece of trashy entertainment news.

Nonetheless, Columbia administrators can be tight-lipped. And, this being an interesting time in history because of WikiLeaks’ work to reveal classified government documents, gauging the amount of information Columbia administration and safety and security offices offer to The Chronicle or any other curious Columbians is also worth analyzing.

A few stories come to mind when I consider the college’s transparency, including an article printed on Sept. 13 about an attempted mugging at the 218 S. Wabash Ave. Building, or another published on Oct. 18 about the resolved bed bug situation in one of the Buckingham dorms and the investigation of the phony bomb threats in multiple college buildings printed on Nov. 8.

With all of these articles, Columbia administration and safety and security offices were apprehensive to give up information and refused to answer some questions the student body, faculty and staff deserved answers to.

We should have known why the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building wasn’t evacuated when the second bomb threat came in, and we also should’ve been given a rundown of the attempted mugging that happened to a Columbia staff member so the rest of us know what to look for if the suspects are on campus.

Lastly, students living in dorms should be notified of the specific bed bug incident details and that it was properly taken care of by an extermination team. Bed bugs are mean little critters and we’d all sleep better at night knowing they’re gone.

Instead of receiving cooperation from the college and details about these incidents, Chronicle reporters often got the runaround, which risked publishing an incomplete story. This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons: one, not commenting makes the college look like it’s doing something shady when it probably isn’t; and two, The Chronicle is unable to get the full story. This can lead to factual errors and an uninformed campus.

However, there are exceptions to this disclosure problem with some top administrators who will comment on nearly anything and will call back journalists promptly. For them, The Chronicle is greatly appreciative.

As for the rest, journalists and Columbia administrators need to work together to inform students, faculty and staff. Information the college withholds can occasionally affect people’s safety and this is far more important than blemishing Columbia’s polished reputation.