Students, faculty meet to discuss quote incident

Nathalie Tadena

Some Medill faculty members, a student advisory council, and a grassroots group of Medill students and alumni met Wednesday in response to the controversy surrounding Medill Dean John Lavine’s use of an anonymous student quote. The groups met independently of one another, but the topic on all three tables was the same – how to proceed in making the incident a “teachable moment” for the school while it is under investigation by NU Provost Dan Linzer.

Attendees at a Wednesday morning faculty meeting included faculty members who signed last week’s petition calling the situation a “crisis” for the school as well as some who did not sign. Faculty members reached by phone declined comment on the meeting until the faculty reaches a resolution that affects students.

The four Medill seniors who started a grassroots blog, Journalists Speak, in response to last week’s faculty letter also met Wednesday. They’ve collected 248 signatures from students and alumni through the blog, Facebook groups and Blackboard e-mail lists, said Medill senior Aaron Gannon, one of the blog’s creators.

“They want this controversy to be resolved by becoming a teachable moment,” Gannon said of the signatories.

His group plans on holding an open forum during Reading Week, and they’ve reached out to members of local media as well as ethics and Integrated Marketing Communications professors about serving on a discussion panel.

“We’re trying to keep it as balanced as possible,” Gannon said. “We’re inviting the Dean (Lavine).

But Lavine told the school’s Undergraduate Advisory Board Wednesday that he cannot comment or discuss the matter until the provost concludes his investigation.

Lavine met with the board Wednesday in a regularly scheduled bi-quarterly meeting. The board plans to organize an open student discussion with Lavine about the matter in the beginning of Spring Quarter, but does not plan on issuing a statement.

“It is better if dialogue could be had directly with (Lavine) and the students,” freshman board member Tania Karas said.

Lavine said the quote in question was from a Medill junior praising an advertising class in the school’s Integrated Marketing Communications division. In his February 11 column in The Daily, Medill senior David Spett said he contacted all 29 students in the class without finding the source of the quote.

Professor David Protess and Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn have since independently contacted the five then-Medill juniors who took the class. Zorn’s Wednesday Chicago Tribune column lists the names of the five students: Alex Apatoff, Vanessa Hand, Eimear Lynch, Alexis Jeffries and Katie Welnhofer – all currently Medill seniors who took the class in the winter of 2007. All told Protess and Zorn they had been contacted by Spett by phone, and all denied being the source of the anonymous quote.

Amanda Palleschi contributed to this report.

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