For the first several weeks of my final year here at Haverford College, I had been logging into Moodle to view course syllabi and find reading links just like any other semester. I arrived to the homepage with my cell phone at the ready for Duo multi-factor authentication (I was lazy enough to complain about sending a push to my device every log-in and somehow too lazy to remember to check the “Remember me for 7 days” box).
Yet something about this typical, mildly frustrating log-in ritual felt different this year. It wasn’t the fear of being timed out and having to log in again – I’m used to that already. Nor was it the short list of classes on the page once logged in – as a Growth and Structure of Cities major, I typically have at least half of my classes on the annoyingly separate Bryn Mawr Moodle site. Perhaps it was a sort of senior-year nostalgia? Could I already be starting to miss that view of Founders Hall on the homepage?
At the end of September, it finally hit me. The homepage photograph showing Founders Hall through some trees looked strikingly familiar. I had seen it somewhere many times before… on The Clerk’s website! The photo I had seen every day logging into Moodle was mine. I took this photograph of campus almost exactly two years ago, in September of 2017, as part of my role as Photo Editor for The Clerk. We have used it many times as a marker for an article about Haverford that doesn’t have other relevant photographic content available – it’s basically one of our favorite stock photos. As an online-only newspaper, such images are extremely helpful for drawing readers’ eyes to our article links when scrolling through Facebook feeds. It is a simple and recognizable reference to the College that’s carefully composed to be visually appealing (if I may say so myself) but not too distracting as a repeated icon or web page background, which is what would have made it attractive to the Moodle site designer.
I dug into all the nested folders on my desktop and found in “Clerk Fall 2017” my informally-named file “founders and trees.jpg.” Upon opening it and zooming in, with Moodle open on the other side of the screen, I confirmed the uncanny familiarity that I had been sensing all along: behind a slight dark overlay and the text, the images are exactly the same, down to every leaf, shadow, and gesture of the small figure sitting on the Founders steps.
I reached out to the learning technology services email provided on Moodle’s site and found out that the image was presumed to be owned by the College; the site designer (who wished not to be identified by name) told me that “[they] should have cleared the usage.” I take this use of my photograph as a form of flattery and not a serious offense; but still, it is an ironic example of the College going against the spirit of the Honor Code. After all, my image was used without asking for permission or even citing me or The Clerk, on the very site dedicated to schoolwork and by extension the Academic Honor Code! There is now a small citation at the end of the paragraph beneath the image: “Cover photo provided by Kate Silber and The Haverford Clerk.” I received sincere apologies and I don’t hold any hard feelings over so minor an issue that was so quickly resolved.
The incident draws attention to something important that makes The Clerk special on campus: while we are recognized by the College as an extracurricular organization, we are officially the independent student newspaper. This distinction is a core part of our identity and is featured in the slogan that follows our name on haverfordclerk.com, but it seems the significance of our independence is often forgotten. Unlike the Bi-College News, our funding comes from a source outside of club budgeting that is dedicated to independent student journalism. Unlike the College’s communications office, which employs student workers to produce written and photographic work that represents the College and events that happen here to be used in promotional materials (but still cites the photographers right on the College website homepage, I might add!), our work seeks to tell the whole story of what happens here at Haverford from student perspectives only. Therefore our content, while Haverford-related, is our own. For something as small as a stock photo of campus that easily comes up in a Google Images search of Haverford College, this difference doesn’t matter much beyond the fact that it isn’t right to take someone else’s work without permission. But for all of The Clerk’s content, we continue to stand behind the independence of the coverage and opinions from our editors, our writers, and any community members whose work we publish.