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Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

A letter from the Editor-in-Chief to the FSU community and the NECHE accreditation team:


For the past year, I have been reporting on the progress of Framingham State’s reaccreditation by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). 


This process happens every 10 years when a group of evaluators comes from across New England to visit an institution and assess what it, as a university, is doing correctly and what it could improve in the future.


Accreditation is a process all universities must undergo in order for students to receive federal financial aid.


For Framingham State, this year is the year. 


Throughout this past year, I have written many articles updating the community on the progress of the reaccreditation process.


The articles that I have written include “Framingham State’s 10-year accreditation review scheduled for 2024,” published on October 28, 2022; “Accreditation committee preparing to compile report,” published on May 5, 2023; and “NECHE team preparing for visiting accreditors” published on January 26, 2024.


Eight evaluators from universities across New England arrived on Sunday, April 7 to enjoy dinner in the McCarthy Center Forum and start their three-day visit.


I was one of two students invited to attend the dinner in my role as Editor-in-Chief and undoubtedly because I have gotten to know the chairs of FSU’s accreditation team fairly well over the course of so many interviews.


I introduced myself to each of the eight accreditors and said to some that I was excited to report on the upcoming open forums on behalf of staff, faculty, and students. 


An open forum for staff members was held on April 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. in the McCarthy Center Forum, which a reporter from The Gatepost attended in person, although a Zoom link was also provided.


An open forum for faculty members was held on April 9 from 1:00 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. in the McCarthy Center Forum, for which a Zoom link was also provided. 


An open forum for students was held on April 9 from 2:00 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. in the McCarthy Center Forum, and again, a Zoom link was provided. 


These meetings were set up in order for members of the community to voice their opinions on what is going well at Framingham State and what the institution could do better. 


Not only was I told verbally I would be able to attend these meetings, but also the meeting details for the open forums were sent to The Gatepost email inbox by Academic Affairs on April 4 at 10:03 a.m. and April 8 at 7:02 a.m.


The Gatepost was sent the same email all faculty and staff at Framingham State received, with the subject line, “Open forum with the visiting NECHE team.”


The email stated, “There has been incredible campus involvement thus far in the self-study process, and we encourage your continued participation by attending the relevant open forum session and lend your voice to the discussion of becoming a stronger institution.”


The purpose of my letter is to address the claims that have been made about The Gatepost’s attendance at the open forums. 


When I arrived at the faculty meeting - after receiving two invitations by email and being told I would be able to attend - I was blocked at the door from entering the room by the campus NECHE co-chairs due to a last-minute decision.


The administration had 10 years to plan out the intricacies of these meetings. With a timeline like this, how can any decision be made at the last minute?


Because I had the Zoom link to the meeting, which was included in both of the emails I was sent, I went to my office and joined the meeting online because as a journalist, I believed I had a right to report on these meetings as they were open forums with a significant level of attendance concerning the reaccreditation of a public university.  


I joined the meeting through The Gatepost Zoom account so it would be clearly visible that a student journalist was in attendance. 


Later in the day, an administrator sent an email to the faculty who attended the open forum informing them that I had been in attendance and recorded the meeting for factual accuracy in my reporting. 


Following this email, a faculty uproar ensued, even though nothing controversial or surprising was said during the meeting. 

 

This situation arose because of inadequate planning, last-minute decision-making, and poor communication - not because The Gatepost engaged in clandestine behavior, as some seem to believe.


I understand that some faculty were upset when they learned the meeting was attended by a journalist and recorded because of what they were told about the nature of the meeting.


I am as frustrated and upset as they are.


I am not responsible for the miscommunication and series of missteps that occurred. However, out of respect for the faculty and staff, I am choosing not to use any of the information from the staff, faculty, or student open forums my staff and I gathered in the reporting on the NECHE visit this week, even though this means my coverage of one of the most important events at Framingham State this year will be considerably abbreviated.   


I made this decision even though I have been assured by the Student Press Law Center that I have a right to use this material in my reporting because there can be no reasonable expectation of privacy at large public meetings. 


The irony of this situation is that during the faculty forum, professors conveyed that FSU’s greatest strength is its respect and love for students. If I had reported anything from the faculty meeting, it would have been that the professors in attendance claimed this is a core value of theirs.


Faculty vitriol in response to this episode, including from some who were in attendance at this very faculty forum, would sadly seem to indicate this is not always the case. 


Sophia Harris, Editor-in-Chief

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