Students, faculty and community members gathered in D.C. Bottoms of the Durrell Center Thursday night to launch the “advisory group” charged with deciding the further of the Collegian and Student Media.
The committee, chaired by vice president of student affairs Blanche Hughes, had been named earlier this week. The committee, composed of 14 members, including Hughes; Anne Hudgens, executive director of campus life ; journalism department faculty; student leaders with the Associated Students of CSU; and representatives from all four Student Media.
The committee comes after university administration came under fire earlier this semester when the Collegian discovered that Penley quietly arranged a closed-door discussion with Christine Chin and Bob Moore, the respective publisher and executive editor of Gannett-owned publication The Fort Collins Coloradoan. Katie Gleeson, president of ASCSU, acted as a student representative in the discussion, but members of Student Media went unaware until the first day of the semester, when the discussion took place.
Thursday’s discussion established agenda and purpose for the group, Hughes said, but also revealed a timeline for proposals, which included a March 31 deadline.
Outside of The Gannett Co., which approached CSU President Larry Penley in November, expressing interest in acquiring the Collegian as a for-profit entity, several outside entities contacted the university with non-specific inquiries.
Student Media leaders also plan to submit a proposal of their own.
In the upcoming weeks, the committee will examine structures of student newspapers from across the nation and will designate their criteria for future proposals, as well as a process for proposal evaluation.
Two meetings, in which criteria and evaluation for proposals will be discussed, will be closed to the public. Hughes said that the closed-door meetings would allow committee members to voice their concerns and ideas freely, while maintaining a fair process for all interested parties.
“If we have it publicly, then someone might adjust their proposal accordingly,” Hughes said.
The committee is expected to have completed its weekly meetings by May 1, when they provide Hughes with recommendations to submit to Penley, which he will, in turn, present to the Board of Governors of the CSU system. Hughes did establish that Penley may choose to disregard their recommendation when discussing his ideas with the Board, who have the final say in regards to the future of Student Media.
Hughes defended Penley’s decision, arguing that the informal nature of the initial discussion didn’t require extraneous participants.
“I think to get a whole lot of people involved in the discussion when you don’t even know what the discussion was going to be about was a decision that they felt wasn’t necessary at that point,” Hughes said. “It was no secret meeting; it was just a discussion. If they wanted to have a secret meeting, there’s different ways to do that.”
Earlier this week, members of the Interfraternity Council, the group that governs fraternities, approved a resolution supporting an independent Student Media while encouraging the inclusion of Student Media representatives in future discussion. Members of ASCSU introduced a similar resolution, which currently is sitting in committee review.
Those involved with Thursday’s meeting expressed excitement in regards to upcoming discussions.
Katie Gleeson, president of ASCSU, said she’d been satisfied with committee member selections, noting the heavy presence of students with the committee, allowing for balanced discussion.
“I think there’s a lot of concerns on both ends about any potential changes to the structure of the Collegian, but I think it’s worth a look,” Gleeson said. “I’m coming in with as much of an open mind as I can.”
Next week, representatives with Student Media and the Board of Student Communications will be discussing the entities of Student Media and the current systems under which it operates.
“There are different people on the committee who have different understandings of what’s involved with Student Media,” Hughes said. “Not just the Collegian, but all of the others at Student Media; everything that’s here now, before we can move to what ought to be.”
Moore was present at the discussion, but declined to comment. Chin did not return Collegian phone calls Thursday night.
News Editor Erik Myers can be reached at email@example.com.