UPDATE at 12:20 a.m. on March 27
Thursday night’s Temple Student Government debate between executive team candidates was nothing more than a self-indulgent argument between members of TSG and a complete disservice to the student body.
The debate’s participants and moderators failed to bring up important topics to students like sexual assault or mental health resources on campus, but still spent plenty of time talking about a proposed dog park and squabbling over TSG’s internal operations.
Furthermore, the debate and its proceedings lacked transparency to an astonishing level.
Did you know, for example, that The Temple News and Temple Update have been attempting to work with TSG for more than a month leading up to election season to coordinate student media moderation? This is standard for any democratic election to avoid pandering and bias.
But this year, TSG’s Ethics Board, which operates like the judicial branch for TSG, instead moderated the debate itself. The Temple News attempted to appeal the decision, going through arbitrary processes based on TSG’s constitution that are nowhere documented. Even more, it led us nowhere.
The Temple News and Temple Update were rightly concerned about the merits of a debate that the Ethics Board would host itself. Not only did the Ethics Board ask questions about its own body, but it did not truly challenge the candidates. It was incapable of pushing for real, substantial responses from the campaigns and did not challenge them on non-answers. Is this consistent behavior from the Ethics Board — that it will always treat people in TSG gently, instead of holding itself and them to a higher standard?
The most astonishing moment, however, was after the debate, when The Temple News received a preemptive “cease-and-desist” letter for this editorial.
On Thursday night, Morrease Leftwich, the chief judge of TSG’s Ethics Board, sent The Temple News the letter, which threatened legal action, in what we saw as an attempt to intimidate our Editorial Board into silence. He also claimed that other members of the Ethics Board would consider legal action against The Temple News. At least one member of the Ethics Board has said he was unaware of this letter and had no plan to file a lawsuit against The Temple News.
The concept of receiving such a letter — before we’d written a single word — is incredulous, and it shows the Ethics Board’s true colors when it comes to accountability. The first second the Ethics Board is about to receive some criticism, members spew baseless, pointless legal documents at us.
Further correspondence with Leftwich revealed he was attempting to “inform” The Temple News on what defamation is (because apparently, people who study or practice journalism don’t know about the industry’s most important legal consequence).
No matter what retroactive excuses we get, we can only see the letter as a threat: that if anyone were to hold the Ethics Board accountable or even float the concept of criticism, that it’s unacceptable. That’s a pretty interesting attitude, coming from someone who in the past pushed for transparency and honesty from TSG — a goal The Temple News’ Editorial Board shares and admires in our student leaders.
But this is a far departure from the Ethics Board’s mission. Whether Leftwich acted on his own or with the knowledge of others in the Ethics Board, it’s clear he isn’t fit to be a part of the Ethics Board any longer.
This was a gross abuse of nonexistent power and a childish attempt to intimidate Temple’s independent student newspaper into silence. If the Ethics Board can’t understand that accountability is universally applicable, then we have no confidence that it can fairly apply other ethical standards within TSG. No matter what, Leftwich should resign.
The Editorial Board is unafraid of criticism, whether we give it or receive it. But if someone has concerns, we ask they try resolving it with a conversation, not an unfounded attempt at litigation.