LaGuardia Community College has a club for just about every interest and skill. Photography, chess, creative writing, women in stem, tabletop board games, psychology, cooking, anime, economics, are all clubs organized by students for students. Despite the presence of these clubs at LaGuardia, each offering leadership and community-building opportunities, a growing number of LaGuardia students […]
My name is Tasha Balkaran and I am the Editor-in-Chief of The Bridge: LaGuardia Community College’s Official Campus Newspaper. I have served my time as Editor for nearly a year and a half and in that time, I have had the privilege of working alongside a handful of the most fiery and inspirational student journalists, all whom have exhibited the principles needed to be great reporters. Yet, it seems that regardless of their capabilities, I, along with the administration have hindered their ability to achieve their utmost potential by denying them an office space to work from, and a proper budget.
While production of The Bridge has increased by two papers per semester and readership continues to rise, so does our fight for a base of operations. Since the beginning of my time as Editor, the only space we were offered for group meetings were empty classrooms, once a week. The spaces I utilized for individual meetings with potential Bridge members were either benches, the M-building cafeteria and my “office”: M-109’s waiting area. Not only do these meeting spaces come off as unprofessional, but none of these spaces offered me or future editors and reporters a place to work quietly, use computers and recording equipment, and to go over interviews and articles. While we could utilize the library’s private rooms, that would only be a temporary fix.
After a meeting with Dean of Student Affairs, James Salnave, Associate Director of Campus Life, Shayla Pruitt, my mentors and I, concerning our budget and office space crisis, it became clear that LaGuardia’s administration is incapable of finding us a permanent solution. They suggested yet another temporary fix by offering us a space in the newly renovated Club room. However, the clubs that utilize the room are not allowed to declare a desk, making it rather difficult to use the space as a place to store our archived papers, documents and technological equipment, which are currently housed in three different locations on campus, not always accessible to students.
During this meeting we also discussed the possibility of increasing our budget, considering our current budget of $1,500 only permits us to publish 3 newspapers per year. This budget does not include enough to purchase our annual membership with the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP), press passes and not enough money for pop-up events to recruit Bridge reporters and advertise the newspaper. This year, we were able to publish 4 times, have one pop-up event and purchase our membership and press passes, all thanks to the financial help of the Women in NYC Journalism Fellowship, which is funded through the Gardiner-Shenker Scholarship. Without their help, we would not have been able to purchase our ACP membership which led us to enter our newspaper for the ACP’s Pacemaker award.
Both Associate Director Pruitt and Dean Salnave made it rather clear that there is no possibility of increasing our budget, taking into consideration the upcoming CUNY-wide budget cuts. Instead, they suggested we apply for an academic scholarship to help provide us with an additional budget. However, in doing so, we risk our autonomy to be an independent newspaper. In which case, it hinders our ability to publish what we want, regardless of the opinions of the administration. It would also mean that our budget will rely on The Bridge to apply annually for the scholarship, one that is not always promised.
The meeting ended amicably, but it was clear to us that the administration in incapable offinding a viable fix for our problems. It is also clear that the administration neglects our dire need of a base of operations. While our production has increased, over time, the number of reporters we have continually diminishes the longer we go without a place for them to find us.
As I take my usual route out of the M-building to the E-building’s exit, I walk past three offices, M-103 B,C and D, occupied by LaGuardia’s Student Ombudsman, Robert Walton. Some days, when the offices are opened and I peer through them, only two of the three offices are occupied by the Ombudsman. The last one is simply empty and sometimes occupies janitor equipment. After inquiring about the office to both the Associate Director Pruitt and Ombudsman Walton, I was told it was being occupied by the Ombudsman. However, I, nor anyone I’ve spoken with have ever actually seen anyone in the office.
Though we manage to put out as many papers as humanly possible with what few reporters we have, and promote a website that has been personally financed by the head of the Journalism Option here at LaGuardia, we cease to exist on our very own LaGuardia campus. It is our job as students to provide our campus with the most accurate, newsworthy pieces… But how can we do so without a room to work out of or without equipment to work with?
During my time as Editor, I have met almost two graduating classes of journalists, most of whom have contributed to The Bridge in some shape or form regardless of their major. Without our student reporters, The Bridge, YOUR newspaper would not exist today. It would also seem rather selfish to ask them to give us their best efforts without giving them the tools to do so. You wouldn’t ask a Professor to teach without a classroom, why ask The Bridge to operate without a base of operations.
Our writers have been working tirelessly to provide our school with their best work. All ofwhich captures the issues occurring in both today’s society and culture, while providing our students with a multitude of articles that relay the most accurate news and voice the problems LaGuardians feel should be expressed, covered and reported on. It is only right that we exist on campus in the most literal way possible.
Being denied a workspace, yet extolling the virtues of having The Bridge as an opportunity for incoming students in Advising Handbooks produced by LaGuardia, is tantamount to outright disrespect and using an aspect of LaGuardia in questionable manners. All done in the same methods as was Web Radio’s absent presence yet advertised availability just prior to its return in Spring 2018.
Not only do we need to have a presence on campus, but we need our students to join in with us! This is your newspaper. Use it as your voice. It is up to you, the students, to keep this aspect of campus life afloat. Therefore, I am sending out an all-points bulletin: Writers of all majors on campus, YOU ARE NEEDED! Creative Writers, Business Majors, Nursing, Theater and Communications students. . . YOU ARE ALL WELCOME!
Take part in not only bringing the news and stories that interest you and others, but relish in the fact that you will become a publicized writer. To your credit, that will be something that could benefit you in many ways, and for many years to come. You’ll become an integral part of the student body, become a productive member of the college, and take a step in preparing yourselves for opportunities that await you beyond the doors of LaGuardia.
For those that are interested in joining, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d like to thank our faculty advisors and student reporters for their consistency and giving us their best efforts. I’d also like to thank you, the students for allowing us to voice your opinions and wanting to be a part of The Bridge.
In closing, don’t hesitate to use what is available to you to enact the changes that you want, and bring issues up for discussion. You have a wealth of power at your fingertips. Use this platform for what it’s meant to be: Your voice.
Tasha Balkaran ‘19