Opinions, Editorials

BC Administrators Must Be More Responsive to ‘The Heights.’ Here’s Why.

Journalists don’t always own their bias. But at The Heights, it’s part of our motto. 

“For a Greater Boston College” means we want this University to do well. And for over 100 years, we have told the stories of this University and built dialogue that uplifts conversation on campus. We believe accurate reporting has the power to foster greater transparency in the BC community.

But we cannot do that when administrators do not answer our questions, ghost our comment requests, and insist on email interviews. 

Undergraduate student journalism is an integral part of college institutions across the country. Student reporters fill the valuable niche of not only informing their communities but also holding those in power accountable.

The Heights was established in 1919 as BC’s student newspaper, and since 1970, we have remained financially and editorially independent from the University. We serve BC community members and their Newton neighbors through our coverage of everything from on-campus breaking news and sports gamers to magazine profiles and arts reviews.  

The Heights has demonstrated a clear commitment to timely, unbiased reporting that adheres to the type of journalistic ethics practiced by major newspapers. We serve as a voice for the students, by the students, and aim to be a direct line of informative communication to the student body. In recent years, The Heights has done a myriad of regular, influential work. 

In addition to our regular reporting this year, we have investigated allegations of hazing in the BC swim and dive program, reported on famous former basketball players’ qualms with the program’s alumni relations, detailed sexual health policy at the University, partnered with The Newton Beacon to boost local coverage, put out a regular series of editorials, and published special arts and Black History Month editions. Our stories have a wide readership and have been cited by publications such as The Boston Globe and ESPN.

This coverage comes at a time when student journalists are stepping up across the country. The Daily Northwestern recently exposed misconduct among members of the university’s football program and, across the Charles, The Harvard Crimson uncovered a student organization leader’s misuse of funds. Independent student newspapers, including The Heights, are not afraid to step up, hold administrators accountable, and report accurately on university happenings.

It’s an important time to be a student journalist. And yet, campus reporters consistently face roadblocks. Lack of administrator support for independent student journalism is not solely a BC problem

The University should want to do better, and yet, student journalists—who volunteer their time for The Heights—find themselves consistently turned away. Administrators often deny The Heights’ requests for comments, only agree to email-based interviews for important stories, or ignore The Heights entirely.

While administrators in University Health Services (UHS) and the Vice President for Student Affairs Office answered some of our reporters’ questions when our magazine section covered sex culture, UHS officials did not respond to specific inquiries about the availability of contraceptives on campus.

Office of Residential Life staff did not respond to requests for comment when opinions editors wrote an editorial on laundry at BC.

And officials from the Disability Services Office did not provide answers to a reporter’s questions after several requests when The Heights wrote a story featuring emotional support animals.

These are just three of many examples that have marked generations of Heights editors’ experiences practicing student journalism at BC.

Although The Heights understands that administrators are busy, The Heights follows standard journalistic procedures by generally giving administrators several days to respond and regularly updating articles. But, we have our own deadlines to adhere to as our articles are often timely.

Without complete information, The Heights is forced to offer stories laden with the stand-out line that an administrator “denied a request for comment.” 

When administrators refuse to speak with our student journalists, they refuse to speak with students. In doing so, they signal to clubs, professors, and others that it is okay to ignore student reporters. 

The lack of cooperation with student journalists goes against the University’s curriculum. Some of the country’s best reporters populate a journalism program at BC that teaches students to ask the hard questions and hold leaders accountable. The University has even had industry titans like Jim Acosta, Maggie Haberman, and Dmitry Muratov come speak about their experiences telling difficult stories. 

Yet—through their refusal to speak—University leaders often signal that they do not want to engage with the stories that shape BC.

For more than a century, The Heights has brought informed reporting to BC’s campus and shared the untold stories of its student body. The administration has a responsibility to answer students’ questions. That starts by responding to The Heights.

November 12, 2023