Athletic department officials have recently notified their student-athletes of a change in procedure: inquiries from The Lafayette are to go through the athletic communications division.
While the department has not put this in writing as an official policy, and there is no penalty for violating it, it is becoming standard procedure which our reporters have seen carried out in recent weeks. Despite there purportedly being no ramifications for doing so, student-athletes no longer respond to The Lafayette directly—instead our reporters hear from communications officials.
This procedure will prevent us from being able to speak as candidly as we have been able to with the student-athletes of Lafayette’s athletic programs. The timing of it, moreover, is rather suspicious.
This week, we published a story on the murky history of the volleyball program and its former coach. As we were investigating the topic, we discovered student-athletes had been directly told by their interim coach not to speak to The Lafayette student newspaper about their previous coach’s departure. Athletic Director Sherryta Freeman said she did not approve that message, but approved the procedure of having The Lafayette’s interview requests go through the communications division.
We feel this is not the behavior of a department that wants its athletes to be open about their experiences. We encourage the community, and student-athletes, to question the implementation of this procedure, and its purpose.
In defending the procedural change, athletic officials noted that other schools—Temple University and University of Pennsylvania, in particular—have this policy in place. They are schools of over 20,000 and 10,000 respectively, with newspaper staffs of over 150 students each. The Lafayette—which has a staff of 28—contacted the weekly student newspapers of three larger Patriot League schools, whose greater athletic success would make them more attractive for media coverage. None of them have to go through the communications division to speak with their student-athletes.
Athletic officials further noted that external media outlets have to follow the same procedure as the department is now imposing on us. Not only does this disregard The Lafayette’s role in the history of the college, but it also distances the department from the only objective media source whose reporters have direct access to their student-athletes.
We ask the department to rethink this policy and implore the community to scrutinize it.
The Lafayette Editorial Staff