News blackout at Cursor?!
In university newspapers, or similar media at universities of applied sciences, well-founded criticism is often voiced about the goings-on within the organization. Independent journalists on the editorial team apply journalistic principles to write their articles. Especially at a university, you're free to disagree with one another provided you're working within the facts. You are allowed to touch on a sore spot, and do so publicly. As a university, we have nothing to hide: Improve the world, but begin with yourself!
It must be possible to publish a series of anonymized articles about wrongdoing in the workplace. It must be possible to publish an article about a potential conflict of interests, and the editor-in-chief must be given the scope to do this, under the watchful eye of an editorial board that checks whether journalistic principles are being followed, not whether the reputation of the university is at risk. If it's jubilant articles full of self-praise that you want, just ask your marketing department.
And if we don't choose to go this route, what's the alternative? Should these matters be confined to the grapevine? Should we ask the national press to publish these articles? Should we ask columnists to write opinion pieces without hearing both sides of the argument?
I've been doing just this for quite a while now, and enjoying the task. In recent years I've often received reactions to my columns. Sometimes publicly, sometimes over e-mail or in person. Often these reactions were positive, and accompanied by a wistful remark: “I hope that finally something changes,” but there have been negative ones too, some from the university administration. I've always taken feedback to heart and on more than one occasion I've entered into discussion with people.
Once in a while I've even received the following comment: “I'm amazed you dared write that, aren't you worried about your job?” I have to say that I never was, not until now. After all, a column is an opinion and we're all allowed to have and express opinions, aren't we? If we disagree with one another, we can talk it out, and if I were to write any demonstrable errors of fact, you could have them rectified (although my wife would immediately say that admitting my mistakes is not my strongest suit).
But now something unimaginable is happening. Now, an editor-in-chief has been removed from his position because a factually accurate piece supposedly does not conform to the information needs of the TU/e community. So first we use physical force to remove students from meeting rooms they are occupying, and now we're using psychological force to remove editors-in-chief from their desks?
Slowly it's dawning on me that worrying about my job is perhaps something I should be doing. As should every columnist at Cursor. Indeed, every employee and student at TU/e should be worrying about what they're writing on social media. If your opinion isn't to the liking of the TU/e board, you too could be swiftly removed.
Given this climate, I'm full of admiration for the editorial team; that they immediately chose to stand as one behind their editor-in-chief. Jeopardizing their own jobs, they are taking a stand and endorsing the gut feeling of their editor-in-chief that journalistic independence is at stake here. They have my wholehearted support.