Letter: ‘Quotegate’ anniversary

On the anniversary of Medill’s ‘Quotegate’

Wednesday marked a peculiar one-year anniversary for Medill. One year ago, David Spett wrote “The Dean’s Unnamed Sources,” (Feb. 11) a column that called into question an anonymous quote Dean John Lavine attributed to a student in an advertising class. The column caused an uproar. The national media showed up with notebooks and cameras, faculty members held “closed” meetings and then leaked their discussions to the press, and Lavine gave himself a “failing grade” to a student audience. And then everyone moved on.

To those who yelled and posted comments and got interviewed by the Chicago Tribune, I pose a question: What happened?

There were promises of student forums on ethics and increased accountability. But in April, Lavine told a Medill student advisory council meeting that interest in the forums had disappeared. By the way, I recall six out of 15 council members showing up to that meeting.

Last winter, four students got together to create the “Journalists Speak” blog, which touted itself as a “public forum” to “engage in a constructive conversation.” Their most recent entry was posted last March.

Faculty members signed a petition and called for more answers after an “investigation” by a three-person committee cleared Lavine without talking to students in the class, as two student publications, a professor and a Tribune columnist did. The faculty has gone silent too.

Many people were angry about what happened. I was, too. Let’s do what we said we would do last winter, and bolster instruction on the ethics and the use of sources. Let’s have conversations about the kind of issues that every student should consider from day one.

We can’t afford to forget the lessons of “Quotegate.” That solves nothing and will leave us susceptible to the same thing all over again.

-NOMAAN MERCHANTMedill senior Former Daily managing editor