Editorial: A free press challenged at DePaul

May 29, 2018

The playwright and author Arthur Miller once said, “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” DePaul is, in a sense, a nation in its own right, albeit a smaller one of about 28,000. And we, the students who collectively comprise The DePaulia, are speaking to you when we illuminate what is often misbehavior on the part of the university.

The investigative stories that we have written this year are of the utmost importance for the nation of DePaul. As patrons of this university and citizens of its community, it is critical to read beyond what Newsline, the public relations department’s “news” publication, injects into your email accounts.

At The DePaulia, we try our best to bring to light the stories that DePaul doesn’t often want students, staff and alumni to know about. But on almost every serious story we’ve reported on, we faced the towering roadblock that is the DePaul University Office of Public Relations and Communications.

We don’t back down when public relations officials flex their muscles. We pester them until they inevitably give us a “decline to comment” or a brief, vague statement.

In the course of our pursuit of the truth, DePaul stands in our way at every juncture. It took more than seven months for us to be granted an interview with the new president of our university, and even then there was still a public relations official in the room.

When we recently reported on racist and insensitive tweets written by Director of University Events Jen Kramer, public relations officials gave us no more information than a written apology from Kramer. She wasn’t media-shy – she had been interviewed the week before for a story about graduation snafus, but when we approached her days later about her tweets, we were met with a response from public relations.

We wanted to know what employee at DePaul was responsible for hiring her in 2016, since a rudimentary Google search would have returned a 2015 article about the tweets.

In other words, we were seeking accountability. Instead, we got a statement saying: “DePaul does not comment on personnel matters.” For an institution that touts its diversity and inclusivity as attractants, the university should want to hold accountable the person responsible for hiring her when her nasty views were so public. They should want to investigate their hiring practices to make sure that they don’t continue to hire people who spout racist views, if not on principle alone, then so as not to offend the diverse student body they brag about in marketing materials.

Instead, they do their best to sweep the latest controversy under the rug by providing a cloudy, blameless statement. They think that students and staff will forget about their misbehavior, which could be dangerous for them. They underestimate the student body.

The Athletic Department also contributes to the overall opacity of the institution. It took our sports reporter weeks to get a sit-down with walk-on basketball player Pantelis Xidias for a fun feature story about his wacky antics.

In a recent story about safety on campus in the wake of an increase in crime in Lincoln Park, we requested an interview with Bob Wachowski, the director of public safety. Instead, we were told Wachowski would only answer written questions, a journalism no-no. But it was the only way that we could get any answers, so we had to take it. He flat-out ignored many of the questions. In our story about Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto’s potential conflict of interest with Wintrust Bank and the naming rights for Wintrust Arena, DePaul purposely and knowingly disseminated incorrect and inaccurate information to us when we gave them every opportunity to be forthcoming and transparent. One time, our sports editor was denied an interview with Lenti Ponsetto by an Athletic Department employee when he was less than 25 feet away from her.

Employees of the Office of Public Relations and Communications think they can bully our writers and editors, and then come complaining to the dean of the College of Communication when they can’t back us into a corner.

DePaul is a private university, which means they are not legally required to release the same information that public institutions are. But just because the law does not compel them towards transparency, it doesn’t mean they should get a free pass on that front.

DePaul should know that when they try to shut down our stories, it only invigorates us to dig deeper. They should know that when they decline to comment, it only makes us more curious and gives the perception that they are hiding something.

It seems like every time we send out an email, regardless of what it is about, we are met with a reply from a public relations official, wondering what we’re writing about. Not allowing us to talk to staff is undeniably a form of censorship, one that has harmful effects on the general well-being of the campus.

We will not apologize for the stories we write. We will not back down when DePaul attempts to roadblock our pursuit of the truth. And we will persist in being a thorn in the administration’s side for as long as they give us a reason to be.


14 Responses to “Editorial: A free press challenged at DePaul”

  1. Alum on May 29th, 2018 9:03 am

    Wow, wonderful article. Please continue to hold DePaul accountable. As an alum, the actions of the administration and athletic department are often embarrassing, and drastically need to change. This University will have zero respect on the national stage if it continues its actions.

    Thank you for your transparency,

  2. April Acevedo on May 29th, 2018 10:24 am

    DePaulia’s work does not go unnoticed and is heavily appreciated by this citizen of the private institution. May you guys keep shedding a light on topics and issues that the system does not want to address. It’s a strong leap forward.

  3. VM on May 29th, 2018 11:18 am

    Keep up the good work! It does not go unnoticed.

  4. a bread on May 29th, 2018 12:37 pm
  5. Norm on May 29th, 2018 12:46 pm

    In the old Soviet Union a “public relations official” was known as a “political officer”, which is exactly what you have here.

  6. Doctor Doctor on May 29th, 2018 2:40 pm

    They don’t even uphold Catholic values. Routinely ban conservative speakers. Not sending my kids there.

  7. DePaul faculty member on May 29th, 2018 3:54 pm

    Good on you, DePaulia. Those who are authentic and who strive for what is just and defensible are the ones who will finish the race and make positive change. It may take a bit longer, but the arc of this institution will bend in your direction (not in the administration’s direction) if you keep at it. DePaul is worth it. Everyone knows you are right, which is the reason for the opacity. Keep up the excellent work.

  8. Bubba Gage on May 30th, 2018 2:14 pm

    Keep it up the great work guys!!! I support u 1,000%

  9. Matt Smith on June 1st, 2018 5:46 am

    Brilliant reporting. You should be proud.

    What is most egregious is that the administration doesn’t seem to recognize that you are DePaul. There is no DePaul with you. The administration reports to you. You are the client. You pay their salaries. Disrespecting you, while you also happen to be doing the absolute right thing, is galling.

    Ponsetto and Bethke should share all details of the Wintrust deal. I am afraid that a bad deal was struck (it certainly seems bad without even seeing the details). Those in higher ed don’t have good business sense. No offensive, but the experience in striking good deals is not there. They should have hired an expert to do it, or perhaps not done it at all.

  10. Olivier D on June 1st, 2018 7:05 am

    It took 7 months for the President to sit down with you???

    He is not a student of good politics or smart politics or simply “that’s what you’re supposed to do”. How that wasn’t an obvious no-brainer concerns me.

  11. J. Moran MBA DePaul U on June 3rd, 2018 9:59 pm

    DePaulia Editorial Board (5/29/18 edition), expressed great umbrage about how (it claims) the University inhibits its “pursuit of truth”. However, this ‘pursuit’ seems highly selective. Where was the Board when thuggish DePaul student-mobs physically attacked and blocked invited speakers in 2016? Did the Board use its ‘pursuit of truth’ to identify such students and demand their punishment as they now demand Ms. Kramer’s firing for bad-joke tweets, done long before her DePaul tenure? Regrettably, No! Has the Board led the charge to welcome contentious speakers and to insist on a University policy of opinion-diversity, to include, even seek out and welcome, such speakers, in order to LEARN? Again – Nada! Query: Who would not want to hear Adolph Hitler, in order to better understand why a nation, noted for its civilization contributions, so readily followed him? If you say no, why, pray tell? College is for LEARNING, a place for being intellectually uncomfortable… right?

    The day my alma-mater, DePaul, excludes speech simply because a group of intellectually-discomfited wussy students feel ‘offended’ enough to harm someone who has the temerity to express an un-rote thought is the day DePaul will have lost its societal value.

    So, highly-piqued Editorial Board: vacate your sterile safe-space– and consider: Long ago, a young Jewish boy, a true outlier, challenged senior Rabbis to the hurly-burly of unfettered public debate. To the Rabbis’ credit, they accepted. And the world changed. The boy’s name: Jesus. Fortunately, there were no intolerant student-mobs to attack the boy – or the Rabbis – for expressing contrarian opinions.

    I, an MBA DePaul grad of some vintage, am appalled by the outright brutishness of many DePaul students, and its tacit acceptance by DePaulia’s Editorial Board, while espousing its veneer of professionalism. Advice to the Editorial Board –
    “Methinks you protest too much”

  12. Formerdemon on June 12th, 2018 1:28 pm

    It’s interesting that the athletic department,s lack of transparency continues. Eugene Lenti cleaned out his office Friday and was a no-show for work on Monday, No word to the staff yesterday?
    .37 years at the school, winningest coach ever.
    Where did he go?

    Keep up the good work DePaulia, things must change!

  13. Kevin on June 15th, 2018 9:35 pm

    Simple question, who are you? Why are you hiding behind various screen names? Clearly there is some form of agenda against the Lenti family- why? Why are you using a school newspaper as your sounding board and hiding behind it? How many screen names are you using? It is clear many of them are you based on the word choice and sentence.

  14. Michael Harling on June 19th, 2018 5:38 pm

    As an alum I really appreciate the work the DePaulia did in uncovering the less savory side of the administration. I received a new email today requesting funds for the University and my response was this, “After having read the story in the DePaulia about the senior management team engineering ridiculous increase in pay while planning for extensive layoffs of the staff I am no longer inclined to give additional funds to Depaul. Perhaps when we get a full accountability for these actions I may reconsider my position, but until then I’m going to express my concern in the most concrete way an alumni can, by not writing checks.” It’s sad that it comes to this but Depaul needs to give a real response and be held accountable for its actions. Please keep up the good work you’re doing!

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