Reflections

Do we have the ‘right’ to write? Yes. Can we publish it? No!

“We are neither Harvard nor Oxford.” The Vice Chancellor of my current university broke this to me when I told him that Great Universities world over have student publications and that we too must have a student run campus newspaper. “We are yet to reach their level, right now we are only a fledging university whose image is to be carefully nurtured.” I nodded my head. “Of course sir, I am very much conscious of that.”

I would have probably spent only two weeks at my new university when I walked into the cabin of my dean at the School of International Affairs and asked him whether the university had a campus newspaper. He replied in the negative. I knew then that I had something to dream… A dream which I didn’t know would take nearly a year to realize. A dream which I didn’t realize would then nearly drive me into despair. My dean, who is himself a contributor to a number of newspapers and magazines, was genuinely thrilled when I told him that I was interested in starting a campus newspaper.

He said that the university needed a spark and sounded very positive when he said that the newspaper shall be a perfect launch pad for the same. In due course of his speech, he spoke on the need for students to ‘express’ themselves. He spoke on the imperative necessity for students to form an opinion on everything that is under the sun and also make a case of it. In short, he wanted the newspaper to galvanize the somber student population of the university. I nodded enthusiastically all through his speech.

I left his office feeling all confident and pepped up. I had the dean (an important person in the university administration) on my side! The next pit stop was the registrar’s office. The registrar is an important official in any university admin. It was highly important for me to pay him a visit. He was very receptive and in fact lapped up the idea stating, “Excellent. The university shall no doubt encourage such student led initiatives.” No sooner than he said that, he spoke on the need to carefully tread the path. ‘Censorship’ was hanging around and I could sense it. Though I despised and feared the term just like any other Editor would, I knew I couldn’t escape from it.

He said that the content needs to be reviewed before it goes to the print. Naturally! More to follow… The paper would need a three layered review mechanism. The editorial board clearance, the dean level review and then the higher administration scrutiny! Initially I had this crazy notion of a bringing the paper out every week but then ‘common sense’ prevailed and I settled for every fortnight. Little did I know a fortnightly affair would be a challenge in itself!

After meeting the Dean and the Registrar, I knew I had an impending date with the ‘Big Boss’ himself. So after several failed appointments, we finally managed to meet and he had this to say, “We are neither Harvard nor Oxford.” What he meant was obvious. Our ‘private’ university with its comparatively young age couldn’t afford to let ‘irresponsible’ students try and undo the painstakingly built up reputation. I assured him that the newspaper shall be ‘mindful’ of the concerns. More questions where to follow. “Where will you find the news?” “What will you write and who will read?” I replied, “We have a campus of nearly a thousand students all having their own stories to tell sir.” As it is, there are news makers everywhere!

But then the core issue we discussed during the meet was about the content that was to be published in the newspaper. A rightful concern! I told him that we intend to publish the usual things that students were interested; entertainment news, campus happenings, latest trends and all that which comes under the purview of a ‘journalist’.

An eternal optimist that I was, I knew we could always ‘win over’ the administration with our responsible writing and rightful intentions. Though there were a lot to be planned before we could actually hit the stands, I didn’t for see any problem. But the university administration did…

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