Washburn sets great standard for colleges

Review Editorial Staff

With recent media reports bringing to light yet more controversy at the University of Kansas–the administration approving the student government’s bill to cut their student media’s funding by half after it wrote a critical editorial–now seemed like a good time to reflect on the relationship between Washburn Student Media and the Washburn Student Government Association. The difference in the student media/student government relationship at Washburn couldn’t be more different than it is at KU.

The civility, professionalism, cooperation and, in some cases, friendships, that exist between Washburn Student Media and WSGA is something that is absolutely praiseworthy. Many would remember a time when those four words would be the last to be used to describe the two student organizations’ relationship. Over the past couple years, however, active efforts have been made on both sides of the dichotomy, which, while KU is the school in the spotlight right now, really exists among schools throughout the nation and has gone on for decades. However, those efforts made at Washburn, it would seem, have paid off.

For one, the two organizations have developed a literal open-door policy. Formal interviews aside, if a member of WSGA has a question for the Review, or vice versa, he or she just walks into the other organization’s office and asks. And everybody seems to be okay with this. In the past, members of Student Media have been asked to set up an official appointment through the WSGA public relations director to talk to the WSGA president–even if it was just a quick question–and the Review staff had seriously considered implementing the same policy if a member of WSGA wanted to talk to an editor.

Those days are gone, though. Without ever explicitly discussing it, both organizations got rid of all the red tape. Both organizations are made up of students with the purpose of serving the students, and that tape was getting in the way.

WSGA members are always willing to talk to the Review to help with a story, making reporters’ jobs a lot easier. The organization also brings story ideas to the Review. On the flipside, the Review has given the WSGA president and vice president a free slot in each issue of the paper to write to the student body (called President’s Corner), which WSGA in the past had to pay for.

The Washburn Review also partnered with WSGA this past year to form a partnership with USA Today, bringing The Buzz app to Washburn–an opportunity only offered to select universities.

A lot of credit also is due to the advisor of each of these two organizations. In both cases, the advisors do just that – advise. They don’t try to micromanage or control WSGA or Student Media. They let the students learn by both their successes and their failures; they give the students the opportunity to solve their problems rather than step in and fix them for them. Included in those problems is the friction between Student Media and Student Government (which has been well and alive since at least the 1970s, as can be seen in archived issues of the Review from that time). And yet, the students of Student Media and WSGA have reconciled (hopefully permanently) a feud nearly a half-century old.

And of course, credit goes to the administration of Washburn for allowing students the irreplaceable experiences of participating in Student Media or Student Government, not setting WSGA’s agendas or forcing bills on them and not cutting Student Media’s budget when controversial topics are covered. Ultimately, the administration allows students to learn and grow, with the guidance of their advisors, without trying to take control. The University of Kansas should try to be more like Washburn.

This piece has been primarily praise, but it is a call to action for other universities. As previously mentioned, there seems to be an unwritten rule that Student Media and Student Government must be at odds that is adhered to by those two groups at universities around the nation. But Washburn has proven that the rule is just that–unwritten, and it is far from fact.

Other schools, specifically their advisors and administrators, should allow students to learn through their successes and their failures without taking complete control when there’s an inconvenience. That’s bad for students’ learning process.

Don’t be like that. Be like Washburn.