STAFF EDITORIAL: Bent but not broken

A new school year presents The Butler Collegian staff with new challenges, as we jump into providing coverage of things happening around campus. This year, it was further flummoxed with the dismissal of our faculty adviser, Loni McKown, last week.

While we are focused on ensuring success for the future of The Collegian, it is important for us to express our concerns about how the process of the adviser removal was approached and carried out.

The Collegian has a staff manual that is updated and revised each year based on changes in procedures or new situations we encounter. Our leadership team consistently reminds staff members of the importance of the manual, since it serves as a guide for our decision-making.

The manual cites its own importance: “It must, therefore, be consulted in all decisions and policy moves, and all staff members must sign a statement verifying that they have read the manual and understand the policy and procedures detailed therein.”

According to our manual, the faculty adviser is “a full-time faculty member in the School of Journalism. The adviser is selected by the director of the School of Journalism and in consultation with the current The Collegian leadership and may serve in that capacity indefinitely at the discretion of the director and The Collegian staff.”

Several components of this description were not followed during the process of removing McKown. The Collegian leadership was not consulted during the process and the editor in chief was not informed about the decision until the adviser had already been removed from the position and was not involved in the decision to appoint Marc Allan as the interim adviser.

Gary Edgerton, the dean of the College of Communication, said the staff manual is not official Butler University policy, and  the faculty handbook trumps the policies outlined in The Collegian’s manual.

While it is not our desire to dispute the validity of the faculty handbook, we are disappointed that we were not consulted — or at the very least, informed by the dean himself — in the midst of the decision-making process. The Collegian prides itself on being a student-run newspaper, meaning it is run entirely by students. Therefore, students should be involved in the processes of choosing the faculty adviser — even on an interim basis.

This decision also disrupts The Collegian’s workflow exceptionally early in the semester before a system was established. It is crucial for any staff to have a sense of continuity, but especially one as young as ours as we become a digital news organization.

While we credit Edgerton and Nancy Whitmore, director of the School of Journalism, for seeing the mistake that was made and correcting it in a brisk manner, there is no undoing what has already been done — that is, the intensity with which we have been pursuing our goal of serving readers well has been disrupted.

The process of choosing a new adviser is exceptionally important. In order to do it well, a thorough and patient system must be laid out. This takes time, effort and energy from the staff, especially the upper management. This is time and energy that consequently cannot be simultaneously devoted to ensuring that The Collegian is the best that it can be.

That being said, The Collegian will continue to focus on its mission. In the short term, we will continue to strive for excellence in its day-to-day operations in order to serve the student body. We are also looking ahead to the long-term success of the paper by actively searching for a new adviser so we can do what we have always done for years to come.

One Comment;

  1. Barbara Power said:

    As a former City Editor of The Collegian, I believe you are far too generous in dealing with what appears from a distance to be a culture of bullying and good-old-boyism at Butler. From the tepid — at best (negligent at worst) — response to the attack on a woman student in a university dormitory to welcoming back a university police department leader after a brief suspension for a DUI with injuries to another person, to the abrupt firing of a dedicated and talented faculty advisor, the current Butler administration appears to manage through a culture of coverup and intimidation.

    The coverage about Loni McKown indicated that she encouraged The Collegian staff to investigate the differences between what was said and what actually went on, the traditional role of good journalists. Instead of encouraging questioning, the university administration stonewalled, creating an adversarial situation. Butler administration should understand the role of the press and find out how to support students who plan a professional career in journalism.

    The Butler administration has failed its students by not providing them with the learning environment they need. It also failed students by presenting an unfortunate, heavy-handed and clueless attempt at leadership. For those faults — and for unfairly and without warning dismissing a talented instructor who was doing her job — the administration should be ashamed.

    But, by politely requesting that the dean of the School of Communications and the Director of the Journalism Department consult you, you are giving tacit approval to the administration’s bullying and intimidation. And, for that, you should be ashamed.