Covering campus news gives editor lasting memories

When I accepted the position of The Flor-Ala News Editor for the 2014-15 year, I had no idea what I was getting myself into — literally.

I never imagined this experience would include covering gay marriage becoming legal in Alabama (kind of), implementation of gender-neutral restrooms on campus, the construction of new state-of-the-art facilities at UNA and pay increases for deserving faculty and staff members.

I wrote in-depth reports about a variety of campus and community issues, including problems with Student Allocations funding, Pride of Dixie body fat testing, ‘discriminatory’ restaurant applications and crumbling, outdated facilities.

Students, faculty and staff read what is likely the last news story to be published in The Flor-Ala — or any other newspaper, for that matter — about William Cale’s 10-year presidency.

I got to witness life-changing experiences and share them with the campus and Shoals communities. But, my favorite news coverage came with the hiring of Ken Kitts as UNA’s 20th head honcho.

From his first official campus visit, to his first day on the job, students, faculty and staff praised the new President Kitts. They talked about his willingness to listen to their concerns, his interest in UNA’s specific needs and his eagerness to make a positive difference.

Last semester I wrote an editorial explaining student concerns should be a focus of the administration.

“Campus administrators should consider what will benefit UNA most when establishing the budget,” I wrote in a Sept. 2014 piece. “They should put the money where their mouths are. With falling enrollment (less tuition revenue) and crumbling facilities, leaders have to make tough decisions about how they will spend the minuscule funds they have. In this case, the right decision is investing in the people who pay the bills — students.”

When presidential candidates visited campus in October 2014, they were asked how they would respond to student concerns about campus safety and deteriorating facilities.

“If it’s a priority for the students, it’ll be a priority for me,” Kitts said. “I think all the decisions on campus should revolve around what’s best for students.”

As I bid farewell to my position of campus leadership, Kitts eagerly welcomes his station as president. It is my hope he will stand by his pledge to keep students first. I look forward to seeing what my last semester at UNA holds under his leadership because I have full faith he is a man of his word.

Welcome to UNA, Dr, Kitts. You’re in for a wild ride, but I know it will be worth it. In the constituencies of UNA, you have the best support system anyone could ask for.