No answer from administration, conversation continues
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 22:03
DePauw’s administrators have not declared formal action — or dismissal — in the case of the sophomore basketball player who was distressed after an investigative journalism professor presented her public police records to his class.
“I am still, I suppose you could say, gathering information,” Vice President for Academic Affairs David Harvey said. “I have not taken any formal action.”
But Mark Tatge, Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism, has heard a lot from colleagues in the journalism world.
“I’ve received a lot of phone calls and email from journalists or former journalists, some who are DePauw alums,” said Tatge, who is a former senior editor for Forbes Magazine. “They can’t understand why this is even an issue. I’ve also had a number of faculty members approach me, and say this is a clear violation of academic freedom.”
This week, Babington removed herself from the investigation in order to work closely with the student’s family. The administration hasn’t reported any other action.
Harvey has also said he wasn’t willing to comment on how the current conversation will be resolved.
“I don’t expect that one would come forward if in fact there was an action to be taken because that would be confidential,” Harvey said.
Tatge said his contact with the administration includes a call from Harvey the day of the lecture, and a follow-up note from Harvey earlier this week.
Online national news sources such as jimromenesko.com and Inside Higher Ed have picked up the story.
Meanwhile, DePauw spokesman Christopher Wells spelled out for Inside Higher Ed what the administration is thinking.
“I don’t think that because public records are out there means that anything you do with them is necessarily appropriate,” Wells said. “The issue is that a particular student felt uncomfortable with the kind of attention they were getting in class.”
Wells noted in the article that while Tatge’s use of the public record was legal, it’s not yet clear if passing out the packet created “a hostile learning environment” which would be a violation of university policy.
The controversy started in last week’s Investigative Reporting Techniques, which teaches journalism students how to access public information, Professor Mark Tatge passed out a 17-page packet detailing the student’s arrest from Jan. 27. Within the day the student’s parents, and then sorority sister, contacted Vice President for Student Life Cindy Babington.
The administration then began “collecting information,” according to Harvey, who was brought in to weigh how appropriate the lesson was. Babington called the students in the class personally to invite them to a meeting with Harvey on Saturday morning. President Brian Casey changed his flight schedule to meet with the students’ family Sunday.
After the class and the resulting news story, DePauw media alumni have been discussing the possible ramifications for the school that helped them become professional journalists.
John Fortt, a ‘98 DePauw alum, former Editor-in-Chief of The DePauw and a current technology correspondent for CNBC, called Casey’s office in hopes of becoming part of the conversation.
Fortt thinks that a punitive measure from the administration could be bad news for DePauw’s media programs. He noted his learning experience at DePauw was extremely important to his growth as a journalist.
“It’s my hope that the administration can figure out a way to appropriately continue DePauw Journalism and have respect for its tradition,” he said, “while at the same time sort of using it as a teachable moment for everyone.”