Cleanup has begun on a policy that asked employees to go through the public relations department before answering media questions, according to district and Skyline College school officials.
The school sent out an email to Skyline employees last week informing them that a media policy has been in place — since 2006 — at the San Bruno community college that if faculty or staff are approached by the media to discuss any program services, policies or occurrences on the campus to funnel the inquiries to the school’s marketing director. It explicitly stated not to conduct interviews with the media or speak off the record with reporters. Skyline sent out an email to employees Tuesday, March 18 about the concern, dialogue and questions generated by last week’s message.
“We apologize for the confusion it may have created,” according to the March 18 email. “The college is committed to continuing to be transparent, open and honest with the media. We will reevaluate the media statement, taking into consideration the concerns expressed and will share the proposed new statement through the participatory governance process before it is released again. … Again, we apologize for the confusion this matter may have created.”
In the email, the school clarifies that the intentions of this policy were to: 1). to remind everyone that, unless one is designated to represent the college, any discussions with media should be representing one’s own personal view; 2). to make everyone aware of the public information office as a resource to assist with media inquiries as well as to assist with promotion of programs, services and activities at the college; and 3). to remind all faculty and staff that the official spokesperson for the college is Cherie Colin.
The intentions of the policy were good, but not articulated correctly, said Ron Galatolo, chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District. Still, cleanup is necessary and the district is working with the school to amend the guidelines since they definitely came off wrong, he said.
“They were not trying to preclude freedom of speech; they wanted to come across as a resource for faculty,” he said. “First Amendment freedom of speech is paramount in this district.”
Official policy would have to be made by the district, so the school isn’t allowed to create its own media policy without consulting the college district board, said board President Karen Schwarz. The guidelines will likely be modified, she said.
“The board sets policy for the district and we certainly never restrict being able to speak on behalf of yourself,” she said. “As long as they say it’s their opinion. … As a district we don’t want to hold people back from speaking their mind.”
Skyline asks faculty and staff to send feedback regarding this matter so that it can be incorporated in the new statement to Colin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 738-4346.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105