BC FYI digest censoring and limiting speech

bcfyi photoshop - cropped

The BC FYI Digest is an optional mailing list for Bellevue College employees, meant to reach out to the community with college related information.

It replaced the All BC FYI mailing list and features condensed information and integration with online calendars. Some faculty members have been expressing concern with its submission requirements and content regulation.

The old mailing list was replaced largely due to unregulated mass emails cluttering inboxes.
“We began examining the system and meeting with various campus constituents to discuss options last fall quarter,” said Russell Beard, vice president of Information Resources. “We received excellent feedback during these meetings. We heard overwhelmingly that many people would like to de-clutter their inbox, have a place to see recent posts and a way in which to integrate these updates into personal and departmental calendars.”

Faculty members discovered that some of their submissions have been edited without their knowledge.

“It used to be that anybody was free to send out All BC email,” said Russ Payne, head of the Philosophy Department, “Now it goes through a review process.”

Payne used to send critical thinking notes a few times every quarter using the old mailing system since the critical thinking course was dropped from the reasoning requirement in transfer degrees. “Critical thinking is a major learning outcome for the college,” said Payne, “This is supposed to be one of the general education learning outcomes that we teach across the curriculum but there’s not a lot of discussion amongst faculty about this.”

Payne is concerned because despite meeting the guidelines for submitting to the digest, the critical thinking notes never got posted and he never got a response from the digest editors. “They never told me why it doesn’t fit the guidelines. It’s obviously not an event. I don’t know if you could say it’s related to Canvas business. If you have a broad sense of our mission [at the college] it’s very centrally related to that.”

Other cases include censorship. Arthur Goss, an astronomy professor at Bellevue College, posted a public planetarium announcement in October with the first sentence omitted, which said “this announcement doesn’t contain the usual amount of detail because this new FYI system has a limit on the number of words you can use.”

Goss saw this omission as unjust despite admitting its seeming unimportance. “The more I thought about it, the more I came to feel that cherry picking and censoring one specific sentence, presumably because it was interpreted as a criticism of the system, was a big deal on principle,” said Goss. “If they can censor one thing, they can censor anything.”

Faculty members like Payne and Goss believe that college issues should be held in open discussion with transparency and without censorship. Beard mentions that “Submissions are approved once per day and messages are checked for style and grammar before they go live,” but it is unclear as to who is responsible for content and under what criteria it gets edited.
While the new mailing system may have solved some issues with mass emailing, problems with editing and accreditation still remain.

“The idea of going to a new, simpler, cleaner system is totally okay with me,” explained Goss:

“What’s not okay is there is some person I don’t know, who is censoring sentence by sentence using criteria that I don’t know, that is taking an announcement that I wrote, changing it without telling me, without asking me and then sending out to the entire campus with my name on it.”