By Ally Hufford, Social Media Manager

Students and faculty received an email Monday morning from Associate Dean of Students Doug Wood regarding updates to the Student Handbook. The two updates addressed rules concerning off campus media and personalizing rooms.

The first rule update said that, “Any Messiah College student or student organization who would like to invite members of the off-campus (i.e., non-student) media to visit campus to cover a story or event are required to first contact the Office of Marketing and Communications.” The update goes on to the say that students may not speak to the media as representatives of the college, and that the Office of Marketing and Communications requests that students who are contacted by off-campus media for interviews notify the office in advance.

According to Student Body President Tetsuo Takahara, the updates made to this rule are meant to provide greater clarity to its implications as opposed to a change in content. In addition to clarifying that the rule does not pertain to campus media, Carla Gross, executive director of marketing and communications, said that the updates are meant to make the rule more consistent with Messiah’s visitation policies.

“This is not an uncommon policy at colleges,” Dr. David Dixon, professor of communication, said. “And it happens because private institutions are private property.”

While the college certainly has a right to enforce this policy, some students still find it frustrating, especially considering the timing of this update.

Junior peace and conflict studies major Rachel Held said, “I think that as long as we make it clear that we’re speaking for ourselves, and not as college representatives, then I think we should be allowed to talk to whatever kind of outside media sources we want to.”

In response to this feeling of frustration, Dixon said, “I understand that feeling of being silenced, because it’s not completely open, but it’s also not quite as severe as it might feel.”

The second rule, which is completely new to the handbook, states that, “Students are not permitted to display flags, banners, posters or signage of any kind in or out of windows or glass doors visible from outside of the residence halls or apartments.”

Held has a more positive response to this rule, saying that the things she typically sees in people’s windows may be considered controversial. She said, “I think it’s probably better that nothing is allowed, as opposed to trying to individualize it.”

Julie Price, the resident director of Grantham and Smith, wants to reassure students that the policy will not be enforced this semester. She said that the hope is to educate and have conversations this semester, so the rule can be implemented in the Fall.

Takahara said that while some students may feel censored by these updates, the college does not intend to suppress anyone’s ideology, view or value. He also reminds his fellow students that while flags and banners in windows are easy ways to make statements, students are still free to partake in civil discourse regarding their values. Students are still able to and encouraged to hang posters, flags and banners in their apartments or dorm rooms.

“I can confidently say that Messiah College strives to do things responsibly, whilst considering every possible outcome and response in striving for inclusive excellence,” Takahara said.

Students are encouraged to reach out to Tetsuo Takahara, Doug Wood, Kevin Villegas and Kris Hansen-Kieffer if they would like to provide feedback and have conversations regarding these updates to the Student Handbook.

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