After leading a session at the National College Media Convention this past October, Nicholls State University student publications adviser Nicki Boudreaux was approached by a fellow adviser.
“He looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure from what, and he said that at the New Orleans convention a couple of years ago, I had done a critique for his students,” she said. “One particular student had kind of been thrown into doing design for the first time and he was not real confident.”
Boudreaux had told the students what “most advisers would say,” she said, which translated to encouraging the students to keep doing what they were doing.
“Evidently it impacted him in a way that he ended up going on to become editor-in-chief and went into a four-year journalism program,” she said.
— Nicki Boudreaux (@NickiBoudreaux) October 30, 2015
Inspired and reminded why advising is worth any accompanying troubles, Boudreaux took to Twitter to share the story, starting the hashtag #whyiadvise.
The tweet followed what Boudreaux described as a feeling of heaviness among advisers at the Associated Collegiate Press/College Media Association College Media Convention, held in Austin, Texas in late October.
“Over the course of the convention, I had spoken to several new advisers who were very overwhelmed with the job and all of the changes coming to newspapers and advisers being challenged in their positions with censorship problems and being removed,” she said.
In 2015, at least five student media advisers have been threatened or removed from their positions. For example, the Butler Collegian adviser, Loni McKown, was dismissed this fall — and temporarily replaced with a university spokesman — and has contended that she was dismissed for doing her job too well and not censoring the student journalists. In another instance this spring, Fairmont State University’s newspaper adviser was dismissed after his student journalists published several investigative articles about black mold in campus housing. The adviser, Michael Kelley, has filed a grievance against the university, which is still pending.
After Boudreaux shared her story and the hashtag with College Media Association President Kelley Lash, the two decided to get other advisers to share their positive experiences as advisers.
Without intending to, Boudreaux kicked off an adviser’s support group via hashtag. “It was just kind of a conversation,” she said. “It kind of exploded from there, I guess.”
Other advisers shared their reasons for advising on the hashtag and through email, ranging from a light-hearted quip about free pizza to the joy of seeing a student’s byline in a professional news outlet after they’ve graduated.
Because there's not that many jobs out there where telling the truth is encouraged. But this is one of them. #whyiadvise
— Chris Whitley (@chriswhitley) November 5, 2015
— Adam Crisp (@Adam_Crisp) November 5, 2015
#whyiadvise I see my students face and overcome challenges outside of the classroom. I can see how they’ll be as future leaders.
— Kate Edenborg (@ProfessorK8) November 25, 2015
Boudreaux is encouraging advisers to share their experiences on what is now called #WhyIAdvise Wednesdays.
Boudreaux also partnered with the CMA to take over their Instagram account for a few days, sharing the perspective of an adviser.
“I took over their Instagram and posted pictures throughout the day and throughout the week about what was going on — kind of the day in the life of an adviser,” she said.
A look into my office. I advise because I get to share my love for words and the importance of deadlines, while defending student free speech every day. Best part: newspaper critique. Teaching through their successes and failures without prior review. Crazy job. But the caffeine helps. #whyiadvise @nichollsstate
Boudreaux is compiling the emails and tweets, which will be shared in the future. There might also be a session at the spring CMA convention in New York based on #WhyIAdvise.
The Student Press Law Center has compiled a list of legal and educational resources for student media advisers.
Contact SPLC staff writer Corey Conner at (202) 974-6318 or by email.