EDITORIAL: U. failed to support student journalism
Shows lack of university unity
University President Robert L. Barchi garnered considerable attention earlier this week after committing to developing a carbon neutral initiative.
“President Barchi commends members of our community for highlighting this issue and fully supports developing a plan to reach carbon neutrality at Rutgers University by 2030," said Dory Devlin, senior director of University News and Relations, in a statement to the Targum.
No matter your views on climate change, or the development of a carbon neutrality plan, this is a significant statement. Naturally, The Daily Targum covered this with the headline: “Barchi fully supports carbon-neutral plan for 2030.”
Barchi took questions during a meeting with the University Senate. In response to a question that cited the referenced article, Barchi made an offhand comment: “You're reading from The Daily Targum? Well, that's one of your problems.”
The University Senate responded with a sea of laughter.
President Barchi followed it by apparently negating Devlin's statement: “I never said that I support a Rutgers plan for carbon neutrality by 2030. What I said was I support the concept of moving towards carbon neutrality ... "
Whatever differences exist between supporting the concept of a plan and actually supporting the plan are difficult to decipher. When it comes down to it, it seems a simple usage of semantics in order to back down or backpedal from a commitment.
If Barchi truly does not care for the Targum, or views its reporting as subpar or unreliable, these views must be recently acquired. Back in 2012, shortly after his tenure as president began, he was considerate enough to write an open letter to the Targum, where he lapped on a hearty layer of praise.
“I look forward to working with the editors and staff of The Daily Targum, which I know has a long record of achievement. Student media is extremely important to the life of a University, and I appreciate the time and effort that students devote to the Targum,” Barchi said in his letter.
The Targum is not the only media outlet to report this incident. New Brunswick Today, a news outlet run by New Brunswick politician and advocate Charlie Kratovil, published an article as well.
Focusing back on the broader picture, what does it say about the health and cohesiveness of the University, if the president not only fails to support his student journalists, but also degrades them in front of the entire University Senate? What does it say about our president?
Furthering that line of thinking, Barchi, as the University’s president, stands as a critically important figurehead. In a sense, his name is synonymous with the University: He is Rutgers.
When he clearly does not support — no, antagonizes — student journalism, we cannot be surprised when the health and authority of it is diminished, as was the case for the Targum after the results of this year's referendum. If our president does not have our back, how can we expect the student body to?
Additionally, the Targum shares the figurehead role with Barchi. Its media and journalism also stands as a representation of the University. While the Targum may be independent, it still runs as the University's primary source of coverage, one that runs commentary from students across campus, professors, researchers, administrators and many more. The University all comes together to contribute.
When Barchi discredits the Targum, he is really discrediting Rutgers as a whole, which, in turn, discredits him.
It would be a much different case if the article that Barchi antagonized was incorrect or misleading. In that situation, the blame would, of course, be on the Targum. But this simply is not the case. The referenced article was built around a direct quote from a University spokesperson. There was no dishonesty or even tweaking of the facts. In other words, there was no reason whatsoever for Barchi to make his substance-less comment.
This incident also raises questions about what exactly Barchi’s motivations may have been. It could have been a simple jab that was interpreted poorly, although it would be strange for a president to attack his own school's paper by any measure. It also could have been a tension breaker after hearing a question he was not quite prepared to answer.
Regardless, Barchi is on his way out. For the sake of the collective, we all have a responsibility to research the presidential candidates and let our opinions be known. Let the administrators know that we, as a student body, should appoint a president who has the back of all of their students at all times.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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