If you’d have met my father in his prime as a teenager and young adult, you would have thought of him as a hell-raiser.
He was redneck, police-ditching, “I let a Vaseline-smeared pig loose in the school as a prank” sort of rebel, one of which I’m glad I never met.
It’s absolutely safe to assume that this redneck rebel’s daughter, a bookworm with dreams of being a writer instead of a nurse – like HE wanted her to be – did not have that same streak of “FU, authority” running through her veins.
That is, until 4:30 p.m. this last Tuesday. My father’s long tenure of being the only one to fight the power was finally passed on to me.
It was aimed straight at our Chancellor, and the Campus Climate Working Group, who so conveniently decided that it was a good idea to prevent student journalists from photographing and taking video of the Action Forum held this last week.
The Action Forum was held as a way for the Working Group to gain perspective on how to fix injustices on campus. It was advertised as a public meeting, where anyone could walk in and listen.
Yet I (a student who could have gained full rights, had she not been branded with the negativity of being a journalist) was not allowed to do my job. The reasoning: allowing students to speak freely without “fear” of cameras.
Student journalists also had to sit in the back of the Hamilton Room, and could not walk through the tables of attendees, as another method of “protection” in a public setting.
With last week’s media coverage of the facial mask controversy, I can understand why administration felt the need to censor journalists. The first result when you Google UW-W is the Snapchat photo of the two students. From a PR standpoint, it doesn’t look great.
So I complied, because it’s more important to get the story and pick my battles, over not be allowed to cover it at all. That doesn’t mean I agree with the policy.
And by “policy,” I mean denial of First Amendment rights. The media and the public are one in the same; if students have the right to speak freely to the public, I have the right to report on it. Anyone who’s taken an American history class should know that.
If the university wants to look open and responsive to students following the acts of racism, cutting out the people who can help them most do that is detrimental to them. Furthermore, it proves to me that they care about their image more than their own students. If they truly wanted their students to be heard, they would have allowed photos and video to be taken to help spread their messages.
They don’t want that, because it shows the truth – race relations have been an ongoing problem for years, and they’ve only just started paying attention.
This was the first time that I truly felt rebel spirit my father has always had. I wanted to fight them, and their decision. I wanted to stand up for myself, and for those whose stories were at risk of never being told to anyone outside of the Hamilton Room. They wanted silence, unless they could moderate the noise.
And I am, by telling people. By making others aware of the injustices served to the students discriminated against, whether it be their skin color, their sexual or gender identity or their career choice.
Maybe my father’s rebellious spirit isn’t so bad after all.