An Editor's Epilogue
Duke editor says goodbye to DU
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 22:04
After three and a half years as editor-in-chief of The Duke, five and a half years as a Duke staff member and six years as a Duquesne student, I am graduating. It’s the end of the world as I know it.
From my combined perspectives as an undergrad student, a grad student, a reporter and then an editor here, I feel like I’ve gotten to know this University a little bit. But I also recognize how miniscule my understanding of Duquesne is; the longer I’m here, the more I realize how complex and multifaceted Duquesne’s identity, administration, morality, priorities, ambitions and public façade really are.
The list of people and things I will miss about Duquesne when I graduate is long — and it will probably get longer when I’m not actually here anymore — but there are also some things I won’t miss.
So before I don’t have a chance to do it anymore in this type of venue, I want to share some of the views I’ve developed after six years as both an active community member and an objective journalist on campus. I haven’t openly expressed these things before, because, as editor, I needed to appear objective about certain issues (which, by the way, is impossible for any human being to be — hence my use of “appear”), and because I didn’t want my personal opinions to be mistaken for the opinions of the entire newspaper staff.
In case I didn’t make that clear: these are my personal opinions, and not the opinions of the Duke staff or the official stance of The Duke.
Here are two little things I don’t like about Duquesne and will not miss:
Duquesne is sometimes unnecessarily wary of reporters. To be fair, the powerful people at every large or semi-large institution tend to skew things to make themselves look better, because if they didn’t, they would seem idiotic—“Why would you tell everyone that you messed up? They’ll eventually find out anyway. In the meantime, puff up your chest and guard your reputation, like everyone else.”
But in the past five years, DU has made it progressively difficult for Duke reporters to confirm information, especially on the sticky issues.
We have had to start jumping through hoops in the past two years that were not there before. Most notably, certain University employees (not professors) had to start getting permission from the Public Affairs office before we could interview them. This happened during the story about Duquesne’s police possibly being outsourced to a security guard company, for example. It also happens with almost every story pertaining to budget or financial matters.
In other cases, University employees would say they couldn’t comment and instead would refer us to Public Affairs, resulting in that office sometimes being our only source of information in an article. Every once in a while, this happened while we were reporting on something that didn’t seem controversial in any way, which was confusing and made us think someone might be trying to hide something.
To be fair, a lot of companies make reporters go through their PR departments before they can talk to anyone, but this is a relatively new thing at Duquesne. I don’t like it. And I will not miss it.
Duquesne’s spending seems unfair to me. I have to admit upfront that I still couldn’t tell you how the budget at this University works, despite having it partially explained to me by multiple
people multiple times. It’s super complicated.
Despite hearing all the reasons why Duquesne can afford to spend $43.6 million on new buildings in the past two years (including four buildings it bought on Fifth Avenue and the construction of the new Des Places dorm), it still seems strange that they spent all that at the same time that they slashed the budgets of every academic department and student organization across campus by an average of 8 percent.
In addition to the budget cuts last semester, the University offered buyouts to 20 percent of its employees, and now they’re considering outsourcing police officer jobs to security guards. In 2010, they cut the men’s baseball, golf, swimming and wrestling teams. But they spent $43.6 million on new buildings recently and $89,000 on that gothic-D-shaped bush in 2010. (Why did a bush cost that much? Because it needed its own irrigation system, duh.)
OK, enough snarkiness. Now that that’s out of my system, here are two things I like about Duquesne and will miss.
My second home: a very quirky, messy newsroom.
I first slinked into the Duke newsroom as a shy freshman because I read the staff’s kick-ass coverage of the 2006 campus shooting of five Duquesne basketball players. At that time, the newsroom was quarantined from campus on the fourth floor of Des Place Language Center, which is now the demolished ghost of the new dorm.
I sat down to help copyedit on the same gross green and pink couch that somehow made its way through every news staff since 1975 (I’m guestimating), to our home in the creepy basement of Fisher Hall last year, and still sits in our shiny new College Hall newsroom today.
That worn-out, stained, yet unbelievably comfortable couch symbolizes The Duke newsroom as a whole; no matter what building we occupy, we turn the newsroom into our second home by decorating it with our favorite high-class items. Right now, those items include a poster of a baby elephant who lays out our rules for copy editing, a $4 toaster for staff Bagel Wednesdays, a happy meal ninja toy that round-house kicks, and stacks upon stacks of unread newspapers. (Gasp! But everyone on campus reads The Duke, don’t they?)