Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dean Lavine Sure Hates This Mess

For a week or so, I thought the Medill controversy had fallen silent--that Dean Lavine scraped and spun his way out of the melee, narrowly escaping the wrath of his peers in the media, his students, his faculty. Just in case you don't know:

Back on March 1, the Provost found that students' sentiments resemble the dean's unattributed quotes, and therefore--despite the fact that all 29 students deny saying the dean's quotes and the dean has no notes or evidence to prove his reporting--that was sufficient evidence to prove the quotes weren't fabricated.

The faculty accepted the dean's apologies; the Reader, the Daily and the Trib wrote some editorials to the effect of similar-isn't-good-enough; Eric Zorn and North by Northwestern rereported David Spett's original editorial, finding the same results. And the facts remained the same--none of the students claimed to have said the quotes, the Dean remained the dean, and the faculty seemed to begrudgingly return to the trenches as the issues continued to divide them.

Then earlier this week, Tom Hayden--the professor whose IMC 303 class that sat at the center of this spin mess--sent out a letter to the Medill community, expressing his "extraordinary sad[ness]" with this situation. Sad about the dean's veiled tactics and lies? Of course not! He is "sad that a very small number of students, faculty, alumni and unaffiliated journalists seem so intent on doing damage to Medill at such a critical and positive stage in its evolution." He went on to further state that the real name of this school is not the Medill School of Journalism, but rather Medill. (Did I mention he's on that secretive renaming committee?)

Hayden went further, claiming that at least three students from that infamous class refused to speak with Spett, one "bitched him out," and another hung up on him. (Today, Spett responded to Hayden with his first editorial on the subject since his original a month ago, reasserting that his notes are strong and that if Hayden would like to compare their notes together, he would be happy to.)

But where the mess really hits the fan is last night's forum, in which Dean Lavine channels High School Musical and pleads that we're "all in this together." While I didn't attend, North by Northwestern's coverage via live blog gives a great synopsis and (bonus!) video where we can watch spin in action. Really, it's wonderful stuff.

But what's the best part of this video? At about 45 seconds in:
"I want to start with the obvious question: Did I lie with the quote I used in the letter to the alums about a student in the class a year ago? The answer is: I sure didn't."

Sound familiar? It might ring a bell. Remember one of the dean's unattributed quotes? "I came to Medill because I want to inform people and make things better. Journalism is the best way for me to do that, but I sure felt good about this class."

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