Open Letter: Why this website?

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Image courtesy Pixabay.com

By Alyssa Foley

This is my first semester at St. Thomas University. I was thrilled to come here, and I had the support and well-wishes of my family, friends and teachers. I transferred from Houston Community College with the Monaghan Excellence Scholarship and a Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship, and coupled with an outside scholarship and need-based aid, I paid nothing out of pocket for tuition and books and didn’t take out student loans to attend. The financial aid offer was a compelling factor in my decision to attend UST.

However, the reality of St. Thomas quickly set in. By the sixth week of my first semester here, I decided that this will be my last semester at UST.

My major is communications, I love writing and media production. I was editor-in-chief of Houston Community College’s student newspaper, The Egalitarian, for 18 months and during that time I fell in love with journalism.

When I applied to UST, I thought the university didn’t have an active student newspaper (turns out, The Summa was only online and hard to find). I thought I could help re-establish the newspaper, after all I had been the first editor-in-chief of HCC’s paper after it had been inactive for several years. At Club Fair in August, I was delighted to meet the impressively professional, current editors of The Summa and I applied for and was hired on as the News Editor by the editorial team on Sept. 16 and immediately began working for our first print edition set to be published Oct. 6.

I only held the title of Summa News Editor for one week. I had just finished telling a friend and who is still attending HCC how much I was enjoying my time at St. Thomas, when I received an email from the new Summa advisor Siobhan Fleming (Sept. 23). I felt like I couldn’t breath when I read the condescending announcement that all the Summa editors are fired and production on the print edition we were almost ready to publish was blocked. Phrases like The Summa “needs to conform to a few regulations” and “The Summa will be in compliance” should never be used in regards to press. I know enough about student journalism to know that the publications committee described in the email is absolutely not “standard operating procedures” (as Fleming called them) for student newspapers. (School-funded student media at private institutions like St. Thomas do not have a guaranteed freedom of press, it’s generally up to the school’s policy.)

I have not met Flemming in person. Early in the semester I met the now-former Communications Department Chair, Robin Williamson, and she immediately suggested that I call Flemming to offer my services in a way to The Summa. I called Flemming on Aug. 29 in order to introduce myself and try to arrange to meet with her. I left a message, but never received a response from her to even my emails. From the start, I thought it was strange that the faculty advisor was absent from Summa meetings and never bothered to meet the new editors and staff members.

There are several reasons why I’m disappointed in this university, but this is the most relevant. I reached the conclusion that UST does not have what I want and need if I truly want to have a successful career in communications. I’m currently applying for summer internships, many of them ask for about five published writing samples, which I’m not able to produce without a operational student newspaper. Since practically all communications programs only admit new students in the fall, I must wait till next August to continue working on my degree somewhere else. My stint at St. Thomas has set my back a year from graduating into a career in communications.

So why USTunderground.com?

When I hear a news-worthy story on campus, I reflexively want to write an article about it, but where would I publish it? That’s why I created this website. It’s an independent, alternative UST student newspaper where we can publish important stories without being censored by the university administration. I welcome all interested UST-Houston students to contact me if you would like to contribute.

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