On March 10, 2021, former Student Body President Aziz Ouedraogo ‘21 sent the student newsletter email “SB Info is Black Again” to the entire student body. Authoring her first ever student body newsletter, Ouedraogo approached the recent chaotic change of student administration with humor, joking about charging non-Black students to submit to SB Info. Twenty-four hours later, Reed’s social media channels were on fire, filled with claims of “reverse racism” by some, with others just claiming the joke was in poor taste. By March 12, the Office for Student Life, as part of damage control, announced that SB Info would be confined to Reed’s mass email system — meaning it would be read, approved, and sent out by Reed administration. Students, including members of Reed’s Student Body Senate, spoke out against this choice, claiming that the administration was censoring the student body and wrenching autonomy from its hands.
While months have passed, the situation largely hasn’t changed. SB Info is still reviewed by Vice President for Student Life Dr. Karnell McConnell-Black before being sent through Reed’s mass email system. With dozens of SB Info emails to reflect one, it’s now worth asking: will SB Info ever be freed from the administration? Or should we stop seeing McConnell-Black’s oversight as Big Brother, but a resource to be drawn upon? The Quest spoke to current Student Body President and SB Info author Alondra Loza and McConnell-Black about the state and future of SB Info, and if the student body will ever reclaim it as truly their own.
Reed’s mass email system is how effectively every mass email on campus is sent. From timely warnings to newsletters, emails are submitted for approval to the administration before being sent. If an email has content that is contradictory to the administration’s goals or values, the administrator who stops the email will work with the author to change it so the email can get sent out. According to McConnell-Black and Loza, this has only happened once since SB Info began being monitored in March. When asked about this rewrite, Loza characterized the joke that got SB Info pulled as not extremely inappropriate, equating it to a joke that would be told between friends in Commons or on the internet. The removal of one joke over a dozen issues of the SB Info newsletter may not seem like a big deal, but many students, including Loza, argue that there are larger ramifications to the administration’s monitoring. Self-censorship resulting from fear of the administration is one of Loza’s main concerns when it comes to SB Info. “SB Info isn’t censored by Karnell,” Loza told the Quest. “Instead, [people] don’t want to submit to SB Info because they know the administration sees it.”
Additionally, the current system that SB Info is filtered through depends on an administrator reviewing each newsletter and approving it to be sent out. This can cause problems and annoyances, as the authors of SB Info’s schedules are often far different from the administrators that oversee it. “If I send out an email at a certain time, it doesn’t get sent out until later,” Loza said. According to Loza, this is a relatively serious issue as many Missed Connections (MCs) and other pieces of SB Info are time-sensitive. This semester, there have been a number of MCs that haven’t been released on time as a result of the system in place.
On the other hand, McConnell-Black argues that the system has its merits as well. While Loza viewed the joke deleted from SB Info this semester as relatively harmless, McConnell-Black saw the joke as potentially triggering, leading him to ask the authors of SB Info, “Is that what you’re really trying to say?” That administrative oversight acts as yet another set of eyes — one with a distinctly different perspective — to look over the appropriateness of SB Info. McConnell-Black views filtering SB Info through Reed’s mass email system as an excellent opportunity to “create a structure and a process through which they can actually do a review of what goes out.”
When asked about the pulled SB Info joke, however, Loza claimed it wasn’t indicative of a need for oversight. “I don’t think having an administrator looking over it makes SB Info more self-aware. We’re adults. We know what should and shouldn’t be said.” Additionally, while the administrative oversight can hypothetically catch jokes in poor taste and ideas antithetical to Reed’s values, it seems to let some slip through the cracks. Loza told the Quest: “There have been racist and anti-Black Missed Connections. That’s really telling on what that moderation is serving.”
Moving forward, the future of SB Info partially relies on the future of Senate bylaws. McConnell-Black explained: “What they [Senate] also want to do is update their bylaws and processes around how they send out the Info, so that they wouldn’t have a situation like what happened last year.”
Loza also told the Quest that work was being done with the administration on SB Info, albeit at a slow pace. “There has been an open dialogue, but nothing has really been said,” Loza said. Additionally, according to Loza, president Audrey Bliger is open to a comprehensive plan and proposal for the future of SB Info to be presented to her which is currently being worked on.
All this noted, SB Info’s oversight has shaped much of the on-campus discourse regarding community-wide emails. And while SB Info is an important part of Reed’s campus, it’s not the only important communication on campus. Loza emphasized the recent controversial Student Life email, which upset many students for its disregard of survivors on campus.
On the controversial Student Life email, Loza noted, “That is where I want us to direct more of our [conversation about] email etiquette”.