The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Student organizations slipping through cracks in coverage

University Briefs and Coverage of Student Organizations.

As, hopefully, many of you noticed, the former "University Announcements" section has been relocated this term to "Announcements" on the classified page. Earlier in the semester, the editorial board reported its belief that this change allowed the paper to print more announcements for student organizations and make a better use of its space. The former "University Announcements" space could be allocated to articles while the extra room available on the classifieds page gave the staff more flexibility to publish late-breaking announcements.

But not everyone is pleased with the change. As one reader wrote, "For many University organizations and events, the space allocated in The Cavalier Daily provides an important informational outlet and historical record. This has been reduced, it would seem, in size of typeface and area of the paper from the past." Recognizing that the paper provides a valuable community service in printing announcements, the reader suggests returning this service "to its former importance and stature in the newspaper."

While I am certain the announcements' change in location does not demonstrate a lack of concern for student organizations or University services from The Cavalier Daily, I do see the reader's point. Both the space dedicated to the section and the actual font size used are smaller. The notices appear, not in a blocked-out section of the paper, but at the end of the classifieds (after the ever-present Spring Break Specials notices). The style and location of "Announcements" is undoubtedly less impressive. Not only is the section more difficult to find, the ads, I mean announcements, are more difficult to read. The layout for classifieds is better suited for scanning than it is reading and comprehending particular announcements. Furthermore, when the number of classifieds grows, student announcements seem to suffer. Was there really only one announcement Friday?

The change in layout is not, however, what really concerns me. As the reader noted, The Cavalier Daily provides organizations with an "important informational and historical record." My concern is that the paper's coverage of many student activities only occurs in the "Announcements." To me, the issue is not where the organization's information appears. Adequate coverage of University organizations cannot occur in either the old or the new announcement format.

The Cavalier Daily often attempts to act as a spokesperson for other student or University-affiliated groups, taking their side against over-sights of the administration or community. Recent weeks have seen articles and editorials on the need for diversity, the need for adequate offices for student organizations, and the movement of rush, among other issues. The Life page often delivers very good explanations of various organizations (sailing, rock climbing, etc.) and their activities. Sports, of course, covers the many sports teams and athletes on grounds.

Yet, I cannot shake the feeling that a good many people and organizations are falling through the cracks. Often, it seems, coverage of student activities coincides closely with the issues The Cavalier Daily currently is promoting -- racial diversity, political awareness -- and does not always focus on the organizations themselves. This causes a problem for those organizations not actively involved in the paper's issues. Recently, the paper has covered the formation of a new council for Greek organizations and I applaud its discussion of non-traditional sororities. But where are the articles on other service or professional fraternities? Sports does a good job of covering the University's sports teams, but where are the mentions of intramurals?

Without a doubt, The Cavalier Daily provides students and community members a service with its announcements; however, the paper also has a responsibility to cover a variety of community activities. Hopefully, we'll see better coverage of less well-known organizations in the future.

The Origin of the Ombudsperson?

I am pleased to report that I received a number of letters and comments this week -- too many, in fact, to cover in one column. As always, I appreciate your suggestions for both my column and the paper as a whole. Still, I was surprised to discover the amount of interest generated by a relatively minor aspect of my position -- my title.

Apparently, "ombudsman" strikes some readers as sexist. Why not, the argument goes, adopt the inoffensive term "ombudsperson," which makes no reference to sex. The word exists and is in use at other universities and public organizations. To be sure, it may seem awkward at first, but the initial difficulty will be well worth the change.

In response, let me first say that I really do appreciate the suggestion. I have often been impressed by the genuine concern of the University's student body for any outward symptom of unfair preference or discrimination. However, I do not see any benefit in changing and generalizing my title.

Interestingly, the term ombudsman is Swedish in origin and can be traced back to an older word umbodhsmadhr, meaning deputy or representative. Our current word ombudsman is essentially a direct adoption of the Swedish and refers to a public official appointed to investigate outside complaints. Most often, the term refers to an official appointed by the legislature to investigate complaints against government officials or agencies. The office originated in Sweden in 1809 and was adopted by Denmark, Britain and New Zealand as well as the United States during the second half of this century. In the United States, we have expanded the position to include representatives at the state and local levels as well as individuals in the corporate and private sector, including yours truly.

The point of this, you ask? Well, really, I just find the origin of words fascinating and feel that I should take advantage of this column to say something I find interesting whenever possible. But I do think the word's origin has something to add to the problem of sexist titles. Obviously, at its time of origin the term ombudsman was adopted to refer to men who acted as deputies for their government. But as time passed, social structures changed, and the term was adopted in other societies, it came to refer to deputies of either sex who performed the professional responsibilities associated with the position.

In my opinion, nothing about the word ombudsman hinders my ability to fulfill my professional responsibility. The use of "man" rather than "person" or "woman" did not in any way hinder my being hired to serve you as The Cavalier Daily's ombudsman. Nor will it affect future hiring practices. To change the term would be to place more emphasis on an extremely minor and uninfluential aspect of my position than it deserves.

Still, let me know what you think. Contact me at I both welcome and appreciate your comments and criticisms.


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