The Associated Students Student Senate will vote Wednesday, Nov. 9, on a resolution that would allow students to have personal information altered or removed from the online editions of Western’s publications, as long as damage to students’ reputations can be shown.

Introduced by Senate Chair Kendall Bull, the resolution was written after Bull was approached by a Western student, who wished to remain anonymous, claiming they were unable to get a job because of material published in The Western Front.
The Senate met Wednesday, Nov. 2, to discuss the resolution, and was joined by about 30 to 40 journalism students, professors and staff.

Journalism professor Peggy Watt, chair of the Student Publications Council, which oversees the majority of Western’s student publications, said the proposed resolution is problematic because the only time content is removed is in the case of plagiarism.
Watt said she believed plagiarism has only occurred once in the journalism department’s 40-year history.

“[For all journalists], credibility is their currency,” Watt said.

Gina Cole, editor-in-chief of The Western Front, compared the resolution to censorship. Cole stressed that the Student Senate does not govern the Student Publications Council, so the resolution does not hold much weight.  The resolution is also “distressingly anti-First Amendment,” Cole said.

“I don’t see how there’s anything right about enforcing this,” she said.

Bull said he thought it was good that students showed their interest in the issue and there was good, civil dialogue exchanged. He added his job is address any concerns students bring to him.

“It’s in my job description to defend anyone, whether I like it or not,” Bull said. “I think that may have been missed in some respects.”

If the Senate passes the resolution, it will move forward to the AS Board of Directors. The board will then discuss the resolution before voting on it.

Full text of the Senate resolution from the Nov. 2 meeting:

The Removal of Student Information from the Western’s Publications Websites in Cases Where Harm Can Be Shown
October, 26, 2011

--Whereas, the content of The Western Publications’ online archives has been recently
expanded so that all features exist into perpetuity; and

--Whereas, it has become common practice within the last decade for employers to take
online reputations into account during hiring decisions; and

--Whereas, the online reputation of a student or alumni can greatly aid or greatly hinder
the employment opportunities of students and alumni; and

--Whereas, the stories in Western publications focus mainly on students who in the
course of a university career change and mature dramatically; and

--Whereas, the Mission Statement and Strategic Plan for Western Washington University states the need to “Foster and promote life-long learning and success in an everchanging world;” and

--Therefore hereby be it resolved that, students and alumni be granted the removal of or minor alteration to the online content of the Western Publications which includes their personal information in cases where damage to professional reputation can be shown.

 If after one, but no more than ten, calendar years from original publication date, a student or alumni makes a formal request of the publication in question for removal or alteration their request shall be honored. Non-online archives would be maintained.