As I read the opening page of the Kentucky Kernel this week, I was immediately struck by the title: “Kernel staffers predict when UK will move to remote learning.” When, not if. This was a surprising shift from the editor’s recent letter, entitled “Personal Responsibility.” Editor-in-chief Natalie Parks, despite her own hesitations about reopening, had last week commendably encouraged the student body to be vigilant and responsible: “Finishing the semester is the real challenge…I can’t get there alone. I need all of you, and you need me, if we’re going to make it.”
But now, one week later, the Kernel did a 180, going from providing guidance and leadership to get through the semester, to casually implying the university will certainly close. Perhaps the staff was genuinely convinced, after one week on campus, that staying open would be an impossibility. Maybe they’re right. Maybe not. But the flippancy with which the sentiment was communicated – an article with no introduction in which the Kernel staff suddenly theorize potential closing dates, is a lapse in the strong, communicative leadership that we saw last week.
Campus leaders should not suddenly present their personal COVID predictions as inevitabilities to the student body. The Kernel staff may genuinely believe the COVID spread we’ve seen at universities like Notre Dame or UNC (as they detail in one article) is inevitable at UK. The Kernel staff may genuinely believe the UK administration is trying to wring students dry of their money by delaying an impending closure. But 2020 has taught us that the future is anything but inevitable. The opening page of Monday’s paper blurred the line between personal opinion and journalistic leadership. By haphazardly presenting speculation as fact, the article left us confused about the staff’s intent and the paper’s objectivity. Student leadership must be consistent, open-minded, and—as we saw last week—thoughtful.