By: Brad Fougere
Our college community has a communications problem.
When a firearm was discharged in P-building on April 2 by an Ottawa police officer no notification of the accident was given for a full four months. When the Students’ Association replaced its president after an event that same month, same deal. Until the Times investigated the story, based on an unnamed source, there was no comment from the Students’ Association.
Both organizations operate on the campus independent of the college. However, the communications breakdown – maybe let down would be more accurate – doesn’t end there.
On April 3, the day after the gun discharge, the president’s council was briefed on the employee engagement portion of the March 28 College Leadership Council meeting.
One day after an event it failed to report for four months, the council was discussing the process that invariably cited the top issue among employees of the college – lack of communication.
President Kent MacDonald issued an apology to the college surrounding the discharge incident. On the SA issue, he has stated, that it is independent of the college mandate. The suspension hearing that prevented that student from taking his place with the SA, however, fell under the college mandate.
While the Times respects the privacy issues and the legalities of comment surrounding the charges against the president-elect, it does paint a picture of a broader shortcoming related to communication transparency.
In general, at large organizations, there is a culture of top-down, public relations-focused communication strategy. That is counter to the transparent and open ideals that are presented as desirable in those organizations – and ours. As a body of writers who are not only students, but aspiring journalists, we are confused and concerned with the plight of truth.
Managing the message isn’t just a methodology; it has become ingrained in organizational culture as go-to policy to prevent openness.
This public institution has a responsibility. That responsibility goes farther than many other taxpayer-funded institutions. As educators, priming a generation of digital citizens and leaders, the college has to practice what it preaches. If engagement, if openness, if accountability is to be a priority in the lives of the future it begins with the leaders of our chosen educator. It begins with the truth.
An elected representative of the college body who was to lead a student-funded body was removed from his position and though there are acknowledged privacy concerns, the students had a right to know about the change in leadership at the earliest possible moment. Just like they did with the shooting and any other issue that affects students on campus and off.
There is something nearing irony in the fact that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities mandates all Algonquin graduates to complete ENL1813, an intro to communications credit.