Stories the we missed

This paper marks the end of a long year of publications for this Vanguard staff – a new editor in chief, Owen Smith, will take over in July and along with him an almost entirely new editorial staff. As such, this is an opportunity to look back on the year and identify not only our successes but also a few of our failures. Our hope is that the paper can continue to grow and learn from its mistakes.

We take our responsibility as the principle journalists of the Portland State community very seriously. We work hard to serve our readers by providing them with content that will be useful, interesting and pertinent to their lives, but in the course of this year we have missed a few important stories. Here are a few.

?�� This year PSU got a physical – an in-depth accreditation process that happens only once every decade and is required for Portland State to qualify for federal financial aid. While there was almost no question that PSU would pass the test, the rare occasion provided an opportunity for a variety of critics to highlight their concerns and publicize areas in need of improvement.

The fact that we failed to adequately explore these concerns is particularly regrettable because of the rarity of the accreditation process.

?�� In September, former Vice Provost for Student Affairs Doug Samuels returned from a 12-week paid medical leave as an associate professor of black studies, but with the same six-figure salary. Samuels had been a controversial member of the administration, with many students and staff complaining about his ineffectiveness and lack of communication. By November, Samuels was hired by Metropolitan State College of Denver as vice president of student services.

While we attempted to substantiate rumors that Samuels had been asked to step down as vice provost, after meeting predictable resistance from the administration we failed to nail the deeper story of Samuels’ rocky professional relationships and illuminate the full story of his departure.

?�� One of the largest stories this spring was President Bernstine’s heated battle with the Student Fee Committee over a change in the committee’s guidelines that resulted in the university’s president refusing to sign the SFC budget until they re-voted on 15 student group budgets. The argument stemmed from a Judicial Board ruling that stated that a guideline change made last year ��- requiring a three-quarters majority vote on budgets altered by 25 percent or more – was unconstitutional. But when we looked at our archives to research the growing story this spring, we found that not only had we completely missed the Judicial Board’s December ruling, but we hadn’t even covered the initial SFC guideline change.

?�� While a large focus of our coverage this year pertained to student government, especially its struggles to accomplish its goals in the face of continuous personnel changes and a meddling administration, we largely overlooked the tremendous amount of time and energy that ASPSU invested in working with off-campus organizations.

Erin Devaney, the student body president, chaired the Oregon Student Association board of directors during a year when it set its agenda for the upcoming legislative session, giving Portland State a prominent place in the state’s most powerful voice for students in Salem. In addition, three PSU students were elected to the 24-member United States Student Association board of directors, giving Portland State a powerful position to organize around federal legislation and network with other active student governments. Due largely to the work of ASPSU Legislative Affairs Director Amanda Newberg, the next USSA congress will take place at PSU in August.

?�� Being an urban campus, Portland State is in the heart of a city full of an astounding array of arts and entertainment. We have tried to find niches of exciting and often otherwise uncovered artists and events that we felt were of interest to our readers, such as Portland’s thriving local music and visual arts scenes. But in the process of exploring the city’s bounty we largely overlooked events and artists in our own backyard. We had minimal coverage of on-campus gallery showings and musical performances, and almost none of Portland State’s dynamic theater productions.

?�� This year Portland State made a change to its financial aid policy that closed a loophole that allowed students who received aid for full-time enrollment to drop courses and still receive their initial full-time award. Under the new policy, students who drop below full-time enrollment could potentially be expected to pay back thousands of dollars for aid money they had initially received but no longer qualified for.

While we covered the story when the policy change was announced, we failed to follow up on its impact on students, many of whom were likely caught off-guard and found themselves struggling to pay back money they had already been given.

?�� Our sports coverage was almost exclusively focused on scholarship athletics: basketball, football, volleyball and softball. While we had occasional features about other campus athletics, they were too few and far between to adequately cover many of the sports that PSU students invest so much of their time and energy in. This is particularly regrettable because most of these teams and clubs are unlikely to be covered by anyone else.

While there were many causes for us overlooking these – and many other – stories, one of the principle reasons was that we did not find out in time to provide relevant, timely reporting. Here’s where you can help: when you hear of something that you feel would be of interest to the PSU community or that you would like to see investigated further, please contact the Vanguard and let us know.