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Student Journalists At St. Rose Raise Questions About Press Freedom

More than two dozen College of St. Rose graduates are pledging to halt donations to the school over media restrictions, they're urging fellow alumni to join them.

In early December, an article appeared in The College of Saint Rose's student newspaper The Chronicle. Journalism students and staff writers claimed they were having issues obtaining information on campus.

Emily Paolicelli  is the Chronicle's co-executive editor.  "It was essentially what we had done over the past couple of years, when it started and what we've noticed. A couple of the other academic institutions in the area, what they're doing, what their policies are. And for some alum who still keep up with the Chronicle saw the piece and decided to pen a letter and they asked us if we publish letters to the editor, we said we did, although we haven't in a while, and we just published it in our last edition that came out last Tuesday."

According to The Chronicle, instances when the college has obstructed direct access to sources and information go back to at least 2017, the year that Gish joined the college.

28 alumni who signed the letter issued a call to "our fellow Alumni to cease any and all one time or recurring donations to The College of Saint Rose until the President, Dr. Carolyn Stefanco, and the Director of Marketing and Communications, Jennifer Gish, rescind their media blockade on students and employees."

Paolicelli says it has become increasingly difficult to access people on the private Albany campus when gathering information for stories. The alumni letter was written to the previous editor, Aileen Burke, whose name was left in so as not to compromise the letter's integrity.  Here's Burke:   "We just understand the purpose of public relations and the job of the public relations office. We understand that students at the College of St. Rose who are training to become journalists will have to deal with that in their careers and in their day to day lives once they leave the institution, but we just wish things were a little bit clearer.

"The last place we had expected to run into lack of an access of free and open information was a small liberal arts college." ~ Aileen Burke

Paolicelli dug deeper:   "We were trying to trace where this was coming from. And we noticed a common thread where we would request an interview with somebody and then they would direct us to our marketing department. And it got so severe at some point, and I use the word severe because, you know, that's obviously how we view this as student journalists, that we would get the exact same message verbatim from different people."

St. Rose Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Jennifer Gish responded to a request for comment via email, saying in part "The College’s media policy... does not limit employees from expressing their own personal opinions. The guidelines state that media seeking a College-wide perspective should be directed to the Office of Marketing and Communications, which is common practice in any sector, such as healthcare, government, and business."

Read the full statement below:

According to The Chronicle, instances when the college has obstructed direct access to sources and information go back to at least 2017, the year that Gish joined the college.  Again, Paolicelli:  "Obviously our intent is to draw attention to the issue on this campus with free speech and inhibiting employees and some students from speaking to the press freely. We would like to at least understand where this policy is coming from and see if there's any, any way that we can kind of reach a common ground."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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