Salem Eames, Editor
On Tuesday night February 29, an unusual emotionally-charged scene played out in the office of the State Times. Of course, Tuesdays for us are always somewhat chaotic: the paper prints early Wednesday morning, so Tuesday becomes a frantic race to meet deadline. The goal is to finish the paper by 11 p.m., but this is often not possible. Last minute edits, breaking stories, problems with layout and design, and a host of other delays occur on a regular basis. This is all part and parcel of putting a paper together. But last week was unique. Last week, a University Police Officer kept us company while we finished our work. “You have sixty seconds to finish your work and then you need to leave,” he said.
The officer was called in by a student manager, who was in turn acting on behalf of the College Union building administrator, Robb Thibault. For the past year, relations between the State Times and the Hunt Union administration have been strained. The building closes at 11 p.m. on Tuesdays, and efforts to grant State Times editors special permission in order to finish the paper have gained little traction. Instead on Tuesdays for the past year, staff have met with the ever-dwindling patience of a student manager who is bound by duty to enforce the strict 11 p.m. curfew in spite of the failure of this policy. After meeting with Robb Thibault (Director of Hunt Union) and Jeanne Miller (Associate Vice President of Student Life) about this incident, I come away with the conclusion that Hunt Union is not a “College Union,” as it purports to be, because the notion of a “Union” necessarily contains within it a motivation to accommodate students and everything that comes along with students—especially the goal-oriented, industrious and enterprising students who are involved with something as serious as printing a physical newspaper once weekly. If anybody has doubts about the amount of work that is necessary to publish a well-edited and well-designed paper weekly, please remember that all of the editors are full-time students, several of them work part time (or in my case full time) jobs, and most of them are involved in yet other extracurricular activities. The newspaper is a task which we take seriously. Or at least, we take it as seriously as is possible. At the moment, however, it is difficult to take the job seriously, because we aren’t being taken seriously. Last week’s incident exemplifies the widening gap between the policies of the College Union and the needs of the students.
The current policy allows two of the editorial staff to stay after 11 p.m. It’s unclear exactly when this became policy; I’m still unsure after having talked to two administrators. It was either last semester, or around three years ago. The administration would like to say that this is a new problem and that we the Editorial Staff are to be blamed for not getting our work done. But the 11 p.m. curfew, as far as I know, has been problematic for the past three years. This year in particular, the student manager has taken a firm stance, but in past years, student managers didn’t mind staying the extra 15 to 30 minutes it sometimes takes to push out the finished product. So from the perspective of the Editorial Staff, we’ve been experiencing the same basic thing for the past three years. The paper has not been done at 11 p.m., but around 11:15 to 11:30. There are weeks where we do in fact finish at 11 p.m. But we should not be bullied into meeting this deadline. And calling the cops on us is bullying. The administration cites liability issues, security issues, budget issues. But there is already a precedent for students using buildings after hours and without immediate supervision elsewhere on campus: Alumni Hall and Fine Arts both come to mind. Also, when the two editors who are staying late leave the building, they already call and check in with the UPD, who dispatch an officer to secure the premises. And are budgets so tight that the Union really can’t afford to pay a student manager for an extra half hour just once a week? If push came to shove, I’d pick up the tab. So then, what’s the real difference between two people staying and five people staying? The only difference on our end is getting out of the office at 1 a.m. instead of 11:30 p.m. Maybe they’re scared that we are going to run off with an espresso machine from Starbucks. Or perhaps they are afraid that, as Thibault said to our Editor-in-Chief last semester, we might break into the ballroom and play “naked volleyball.” I for one am not interested. I happen to take the business of the news very seriously. And so does the rest of the editorial staff. So in this editorial, I politely ask that the Hunt Union administration begin to take our effort as seriously as we do. The only-two-people-past 11 p.m. policy has not worked, and I have yet to hear a justification for it beyond “it’s policy because it’s policy.” I think there must be a middle way: a path that leads to neither playing naked volleyball in the ballroom nor getting the cops called on us for being in our office at 11:05 p.m. Then again, if those are the only sorts of things you believe college students do—get naked and get arrested—then perhaps there isn’t a middle way, and perhaps you aren’t ready to take us seriously. If that’s the case, then you’re probably wasting your time reading. After all, this is a student newspaper.