Letter from faculty says Lavine matter has become a ‘crisis’ (Corrected – 2/21)

Nathalie Tadena

Members of the Medill faculty released a statement Monday afternoon strongly condemning Dean John Lavine in a controversy surrounding anonymous quotes used in an alumni magazine.

The situation has led the university provost’s office to examine accusations made against Lavine and provoked an outcry from Medill alumni.

“This matter has become a crisis for the school,” said a letter signed by 16 members of the journalism school’s faculty. “The principles of truthfulness and transparency in reporting are at the core of Medill’s professional and academic mission.”

The statement, which was also sent to the Chicago Tribune as well as NU President Henry Bienen and Provost Dan Linzer, called for the dean to “put an end to what has become an embarrassment to Northwestern and to Medill.”

The controversy began after a Feb. 11 column by Daily columnist David Spett that questioned the use and authenticity of anonymous sources in an article published the alumni magazine last spring.

In the “Letter from the Dean” that opened the issue, Lavine quoted an anonymous student praising an advertising class. Spett wrote that he contacted all 29 students in the class but could not find the source of the quote.

Lavine said he could not remember the source of the quote but vouched for its authenticity, pointing the way to a video where students made similar comments.

Lavine’s office referred requests for comment Tuesday to university spokesman Al Cubbage.

“Questions have been raised recently regarding the use of unnamed sources and the veracity of quotations by John Lavine. … The Office of the Provost is reviewing those questions,” Cubbage said in a written statement.

NU cannot comment on the review because it is a personnel matter, the statement continued.

Many faculty members said they signed the statement to uphold the fundamentals of journalism that Medill teaches its students.

“The most important thing as a result of the statement is to generate the type of discussion about the sorts of standards we’re teaching about in class every day