Grads shun Bode at Medill ceremony

From Staff Reports

Outgoing Medill School of Journalism Dean Ken Bode used his speech at the school’s convocation Saturday to defend himself against student critics who argue that he hasn’t given the newspaper program a fair shake during his three years as dean. But when it came time to hand out diplomas, nine students refused to shake his hand.

After strolling down the aisles of Cahn Auditorium to a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Bode told the audience he thought of graduation more as a celebration than a ceremony. But when the music stopped and the graduating class took its seats, the ceremony’s mood took an awkward, almost hostile turn: Bode told the audience he had received an e-mail from a student who was not going to follow tradition and shake the dean’s hand upon receiving a diploma.

Bode then cited from the e-mails he exchanged with the student, Sam Eifling, whom Bode called “Louisville Sam” or “Sammy.” In the e-mail, Eifling criticized Medill’s placement office and said many Medill professors hired by Bode teach “day camp at computer terminals.” Eifling is a former deputy sports editor for The Daily.

Bode responded, saying he has been unfairly accused of placing the school’s broadcast program ahead of its print programs. To prove his point to the graduates and their families, he asked faculty members with newspaper and magazine backgrounds to stand as a reflection of the school’s commitment to those forms of the profession.

“The Northwestern Daily has been around for more than 100 years,” Bode said. “Journalism education is not a zero-sum game.”

But Eifling’s e-mails make no mention of the broadcast program. Instead, Eiflings complaints concerned several “exceptional” print professors who left or were fired from Medill during Bode’s tenure and the school’s placement office. Eifling also said he did not give Bode permission to read the private e-mail at the convocation.

Still, Bode stood behind the Medill faculty in his speech.

“You might not shake my hand today, ” Bode said to Eifling. “But when you leave, there will be hundreds of Medill alums in newsrooms across the country welcoming you with extended hands.”

And although Bode’s extended a hand to Eifling as he crossed the stage, Eifling grabbed his diploma and kept walking, to loud cheers and applause from his classmates and their parents. Eifling was one of nine graduates, all print students, who did not shake Bode’s hand.

“The story is not that (a few students) out of 300 didn’t shake my hand,” Bode said afterwards. “It’s that 296 did.”

But Eifling said he made his point: “I’m not somebody who’s easily embarrassed.”