On Sunday, the Daily Bruin published an editorial accusing me of “targeting the free press” and “barring reporter access.” In this same article, they compared my actions to current President Donald Trump. It is these comments that compel me to speak out.
Firstly, as a woman of color, I find it abhorrent and offensive to be compared in any way, shape or form to a racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic demagogue who has made constant attacks on communities I belong to and identities I possess. Such remarks are demeaning and unbefitting of the Bruin community.
These remarks minimize the actual issues of free speech restriction by the presidential administration in this country and around the world. The rights to free press and to free speech are of paramount importance, and it is a fight we must uphold each and every day.
The editorial invokes the various actions of President Trump that have limited the freedom of the press in our country, namely his designation of the news outlets he disagrees with as “fake news.” To equate limited concert access with the delegitimization of the free press is both insulting and insensitive to the millions that have made sacrifices and given their lives so we can be free from censor of expression.
Furthermore, the editorial willfully presents the facts in a deceptive way by omitting certain information and burying pertinent facts further in the article. Limited access to Bruin Bash for the Daily Bruin is not unprecedented; most recently, access was limited in fall 2015. However, the editorial insinuates the 2017 decision is linked to the Daily Bruin’s critical coverage leading up to the event, rather than part of something that has “always been a point of contention.”
The Daily Bruin was in no means denied access to Bruin Bash; although it was not given press passes, it still would have been able to report on the event had it chosen to do so. Although certain conditions were placed on its attendance, reporters were still capable of reporting on the event had they completed the process required of all other students.
When the Daily Bruin inquired about media coverage, the Campus Events Commission and the Cultural Affairs Commission offered extended access to the VIP-reserved section under the condition that student reporters had won tickets to Bruin Bash via the lottery system. The Daily Bruin insisted it receive media passes for the event without a lottery ticket verification. The CAC commissioner and myself feel that all students should have equal opportunity and access, regardless of the student organizations with which they are affiliated, and thus we declined this request.
This year, CEC and CAC saw markedly increased interest in tickets to the event, with 9,336 entries to the lottery and over 3,000 people on the site at the hour of ticket release, which prompted the site’s crash. Granting special press access to the Daily Bruin, while convenient for its staff, would circumvent the student process of obtaining tickets. CEC and CAC felt this would be an unfair course of action.
The editorial also neglects to mention the blatant violations made by a Daily Bruin reporter when covering the event in 2016. An incident report that was emailed to the Daily Bruin’s former editor-in-chief detailed that last year’s reporters were granted access to the VIP-reserved section and given security protocol identical to those received by CEC and CAC staff. However, one of the reporters, current Digital Managing Editor and Editorial Board member Emily McCormick, entered the floor and attempted to enter the backstage sections, despite being prohibited from doing so. When asked to return to the VIP-reserved section, she refused to comply and followed the artist in an attempt to interview him, according to then-CAC commissioner Amy Shao. Despite the fact that McCormick had reached out to the artist prior to the event to ask permission for an interview, she attempted to carry out said interview in an area of restricted access as mandated by the fire marshal for safety reasons. Due to her noncompliance, Shao said she was forced to radio a channel that included university police and security for backup. This incident, while not mentioned in the article, certainly sheds some light on why CEC and CAC would be hesitant to grant the Daily Bruin the same access as we did last year and informed the ways in which both commissions proceeded with the Daily Bruin.
Another difficulty faced in this process was the timeline on which the Daily Bruin attempted to obtain press passes. I received a request from the Daily Bruin for three press passes five work days before the event, despite the date of Bruin Bash being announced in the months prior. This limited timeline made it much harder to engage in and facilitate a dialogue about the terms of press access and ultimately come to an agreement that both sides found satisfactory.
While the Daily Bruin does have a mission to report the news, it is not its job to use inflammatory comparisons and conspicuous omissions. I can only hope in the future the Daily Bruin will be more transparent with its readers about the facts and specifics of its dealings with campus organizations.
Saidian is the 2017-2018 Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Campus Events commissioner.