04/03/2012 05:06 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2012

Students Should Learn From, Not Condemn, UCTV Incident

In recent months, many members of our campus spoke up to express their disapproval of a video skit produced by students and shared through UCTV. In emails, online groups, public discussions, published works and other mediums, community members expressed their negative reactions to the video's dismissive attitude toward rape and shared how they felt the situation should be handled.

Some said that they felt the students responsible should be expelled. Others maintained that UCTV was condoning the views expressed in the video by allowing it to be shown. Still, others expressed a desire to pull all funding from the group, shutting it down completely. At times, the comments reached levels of obscenity that rivaled the content they criticized.

But condemning the group in its entirety or personally attacking its members is not the way to encourage change. The only way we can move forward as a campus is to engage in a constructive and civil conversation that encourages understanding on all sides and allows for the personal and professional growth of all involved.

Student-run media groups have an unparalleled level of responsibility. Student media groups are held to the same standards as professional media groups and expected to produce the same quality content with just a fraction of the resources, oversight and experience. By design, student media groups are petri dishes; they serve as a place for students to learn and develop their skills, all under the watchful eye of the public. But like all individuals and organizations, sometimes student media groups must learn from our mistakes. While other student groups have the liberty of making their mistakes in private, the mistakes of student media are broadcast throughout the state, delivered to thousands of eager eyes around campus or posted on the Internet for all to see.

This is not a problem limited to UCTV, or even to this campus. Recently, Suffolk University's student newspaper, The Suffolk Journal, received negative attention for a headline that contained an obscenity. The space had been filled with the obscene "dummy text" before the final content was chosen and, in this case, the obscene headline managed to escape the eyes of the editors and make it to the print edition. It was a mistake -- another instance of a temporary lapse in judgment and the system didn't catch it.

When these errors happen, as they inevitably do, the organization should be given the opportunity to fix the error before it is condemned. In taking the video down and issuing an apology, UCTV has recognized that the content of the video was offensive. They have stated that they are actively working to revise their policies to prevent further issues and they have opened the lines of communication with their constituents. Their reaction shows an understanding of the situation, an acceptance of responsibility and a willingness to grow and change as a result. As President Susan Herbst said in a statement after the video was removed, when "a healthy discussion is taking place... that's not a bad outcome."

We, as student media, cannot anticipate every possible way that our systems might fail, but when they do, we can work toward revising it to prevent further issues. No student media group can say with absolute certainty that our content won't offend someone, but we can all strive to educate our members to prevent further insensitivity. We can't promise that we won't make mistakes, but we can vow to learn from them. As students, and as student-run groups, we are always learning. We all deserve the chance to make up for our mistakes and to prove that we are capable of growth and change, student media groups included.

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