Despite having been a journalist for most of my life, I deliberately did not major in journalism. When I entered Butler University in the mid-1980s, the journalism department (then within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) was on shaky ground, so I majored in English instead.
The journalism department did not suffer its predicted demise. In fact, it’s now part of the College of Communication in a state-of-the-arts building. You just never know what will happen in the wild world of academia.
Now Butler has removed the adviser of its student newspaper, the Collegian, from her position. The newspaper’s new adviser is the university’s spokesperson, Marc Allan.
I don’t think I’ve met Marc personally, but I certainly remember his byline from The Indianapolis Star. He’s a veteran journalist who would probably be very well qualified to advise student journalists on how to strike that delicate balance between watchdog and cheerleader. That is, if it wasn’t also his job to make the university look good, even and especially when difficult or controversial situations arise.
Being the staff or faculty adviser to the student newspaper and being the university’s PR person must, for everyone’s integrity and sanity, be two different and distinct positions held by two different people. Each has an important role to play. Each role must be allowed to function without even the appearance of interference from the other.
It’s unclear why the previous adviser, Loni McKown (another name I recognize), was terminated. My guess is that someone thought adding her duties to those of a current employee rather than replacing her would cut costs. Losing the trust of the public, the university community, and prospective employers of Butler grads — nah, that won’t cost much.
Double dippers get banned from the table. I don’t want that to happen to my alma mater — or my profession.