I’m Not There

Tuesday’s edition of the Vanguard included a massive 2,000 word article that I reported on the University Studies Program here at PSU. It’s a story that involved many weeks of research, interviews and thumbing through public university records. More than a dozen sources were interviewed, which is highly unusual for a single news article. I still have hours worth of unused tape recordings of interviews.

The story was pushed back from its original deadline on two occasions, both times to allow for me to interview sources within the University Studies Program who wished to have their position represented. Overall, the vast majority of the sources used on the article are people who work within the University Studies Program. It is an important and complex program and I did not allow myself to be pulled into the business of trying to oversimplify and assess its performance based on dollars and cents versus credit hours. I did not tell the story of University Studies at PSU; I allowed the people involved in the program to tell the story themselves. I read this story and I see no trace of myself in it.

I gave each and every source that I contacted, and all who contacted me, the opportunity to be heard. Sometimes schedules did not match up, but I always reached out at least twice, often more than that, and always via a combination of email and telephone.

Unnamed sources were used in the reporting of this story, in the form of FRINQ peer mentors. These are people who cannot go on record without fear for their job, which comes with significant benefits , I might add. Such a practice is not uncommon in situations that demand such measures be taken. It is, however, an uncommon practice at the Vanguard, and one that we only resort to if necessary. In this case it was.

What I sought were answers to very basic questions about what the University Studies Program: What does it purport to do? How and why? Is it successful and how can we tell? Do administrators of the program and faculty agree on this model of general studies education?

The University Studies Program at PSU is largely self-assessed; in fact, the only  outside review that was indicated to me was related to the university accreditation process, as well as an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. As the news publication tasked with serving the PSU community, we at the Vanguard feel a strong obligation to critically examine the world around us, and a university program that involves such enormous expenditures of university resources with limited outside review is surely worthy of such critical examination from our humble newspaper.

Our Thursday, October 13 edition will feature a Letter to the Editor from four representatives within the University Studies Program who do not feel that we have adequately represented the issue. Rest assured, the Vanguard will continue to cover the issue in the following weeks with even greater depth and a sharper focus on the issue that some members of the program feel we’ve misrepresented, namely the Peer Mentor Program and the interdisciplinary curriculum.

Let me be clear when I say that this story has been and will continue to be reported with the highest degree of ethical consideration, fairness and critical examination.