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Campus Ministry forces Student Media out

Department relocation displaces The Beacon and The Log staff

By Sarah Hansell
On April 13, 2012

Next year Campus Ministry will relocate four staff members to The Beacon's 1,100-square-foot office in St. Mary's Student Center, forcing The Beacon's 30 staff members into a 400-square-foot office currently occupied by The Log staff, who in turn will take over a 250-square-foot conference room from the Moreau Center for Service and Leadership.

Since all of The Beacon's staff will not be able to fit into the room, the staff will conduct its twice-weekly all-staff meetings in the main part of St. Mary's, which Director of Student Activities Jeromy Koffler has agreed they can reserve.

For years, Campus Ministry was located in offices in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher, but Director of Campus Ministry Fr. Gary Chamberland didn't think it is an appropriate place for offices.

"There's been a goal to get the primary office for Campus Ministry out of the chapel because the chapel's supposed to be a prayer space," Chamberland said.

Campus Ministry chose to move out of the chapel offices, leaving its old office space to be used for storing and ironing vestments.

Their current offices are in the basement of Mehling, where they occupy three of Mehling's five study rooms.

Campus Ministry also has an office in the Pilot House and will retain that office space next year as well.

The proximity to the Moreau Center and the chapel was a main factor in choosing St. Mary's as the new location, according to Chamberland.

"I think we did look at other potential spaces," Vice President of University Operations Jim Ravelli said. "(But) if you look at what the mission of Campus Ministry is ... St. Mary's became the most obvious choice to make that happen."

"We need to be available for all the programs we do offer," Chamberland said.

These programs include Fish, CatholicUP and the Sunday after-Mass social in St. Mary's.

Staff members of The Log and The Beacon are unhappy about the decision.

According to Editor-in-Chief of The Log Lauren Seynhaeve, a junior, staff members often leave the door open to invite students to grab an old yearbook or offer input on the book they are currently working on.

She fears the move will limit student interaction with the yearbook as The Log's office will be inaccessible by students.

"A lot of students don't even know we have a yearbook," Seynhaeve said. "Hiding us is effectively killing the yearbook."

Editor-in-Chief of The Beacon Rosemary Peters is also upset by the University's decision.

"(Our current space) gives us a place to meet where people can set down their backpacks and put on their reporter caps and think about the goal we try to achieve, which is a fantastic paper," Peters, a senior, said. "Pretty much that entire room (the current Log office) will consist of tables and computers and there's not going to be any room to breathe, metaphorically or literally."

Peters worries having story planning meetings in an open space will affect The Beacon staff's ability to speak freely.

"For The Beacon in general, a lot of what gives us the ability to flesh out story ideas is the ability to speak freely in the newsroom," she said. "(This) could impede our ability to cover the campus."

Additionally, Peters doesn't want to impede students' ability to study in St. Mary's.

"If The Beacon's going to be blocking out St. Mary's for two hours two times a week, that's a significant loss of study time for students," Peters said.

Besides the all-staff meetings, the Editorial Board works in The Beacon staff room on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays editing articles and designing the newspaper. The room is open to all staff members and is used regularly for preliminary work on the newspaper, as well as planning and working on articles. The business and advertising manager as well as the director of circulation also conduct business in the newsroom.

"I feel like the Editorial Board uses the office day in and day out," Peters said. "The space is used continually."

Seynhaeve thinks that the relocation demonstrates how the University undervalues student media.

"If the University doesn't believe in us as a student media outlet, what's our incentive to produce high quality work for the University?" she said.

The final decision of where and when Campus Ministry would move was made by University Operations, Student Life and Campus Ministry.

"It's tough because I think that it's squeezing a department into a space that's already being used," Director of Student Activities Jeromy Koffler said. "We're doing the best we can with the building and its configuration."

Ravelli acknowledges the hardship this move will cause for the students.

"I recognize that this is not optimal for The Beacon," Ravelli said. "It's all about balancing needs and it's about compromising as well."

However, members of student media feel as though there wasn't a compromise, as they were not consulted in the decision-making process.

"In the end, we understand it's their decision, but there's a complete difference between shoving something down someone's throat and respectfully asking them their opinion and trying to incorporate it into the solution," Peters said.

Both The Beacon and The Log's staffs want to meet with University officials to encourage them to consider other options instead of their current plan.

Some alternatives Peters has in mind for Campus Ministry include renovating the choir space upstairs in St. Mary's, renovating its basement or building an addition onto St. Mary's.

"At this point, the decision is fully set in stone and how it's configured is probably a fine discussion to have," Ravelli said.

This summer, the University will renovate the current Beacon newsroom into about three to four offices in a 500-square-foot area to accommodate four Campus Ministry staff members. The remaining space will be given to the Moreau Center, in exchange for The Log moving into their conference room.

"The Beacon office is really in bad shape so I'm curious where they got the money to renovate (it), and why they wouldn't have made those updates sooner for student media," Seynhaeve said.

"The renovation that will happen for Campus Ministry is actually quite modest," Ravelli said.

Seynhaeve hopes the University will rethink the decision.

"I'm really disappointed in the University's decision, and I hope that they reconsider and that they include us in future discussions," she said.

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