Editorial: While other universities struggle, OU cleans up its act

The+Oakland+Post

The Oakland Post

By Kaylee Kean

The Society of Professional Journalists is calling for the reinstatement of Northern Michigan University’s student newspaper adviser, Cheryl Reed, after she was denied hiring for the 2015-16 school year by the paper’s board of directors.

SPJ is also asking for the board to consider allowing student Michael Williams to re-apply for the position of editor-in-chief, which he was also denied by the board.

These dismissals and denials have come after a year of increasingly bad feelings between the paper, the North Wind, and the university’s administration.

It began with the North Wind poking around for mischief, trying to play the role as the campus watchdog and expose potentially shady deals between the university and Starbucks.

From what we’ve read, the university already had an unsteady relationship with the paper and wasn’t so keen to release information, and the paper submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for some of that information. The school agreed to fulfill the FOIA but charged money for the requested information, a common procedure.

The paper immediately cried “wolf,” producing a front-page story on the fees the university was demanding, and things have only blown up from there.

While we’re all for freedom of the press and freedom of speech, we’re a little confused by how things got to this stage. We wish the North Wind staff luck, but we also wish this didn’t feel like an overblown case of a touchy student press defending itself against the big, bad university. 

We don’t really know what the atmosphere is like at Northern Michigan. All we know is that both the newspaper and the administration have messed up, and that their relationship and image is very visibly rocky at best.

We’ve had our share of problems at OU, but thankfully, a forceful, secretive school and a negative press-administration relationship no longer seems to be one of those problems.

Last year certainly saw some negative attention, with former president Gary Russi and his wife and former head basketball coach Becki Francis leaving OU under not-so-glorious circumstances.

Things weren’t ideal directly after that, either: A search for the new president began, yet only a choice few were involved in the search process, resulting in an antsy, angry community and critical student newspaper.

In August 2014 we wrote an editorial criticizing the board of trustees for its extreme secrecy in such an important search. Unlike with Northern Michigan, no advisers or editors were fired. Instead, something better happened: The doors were opened.

The board announced it would be holding three open forums for the OU community to meet and interact with presidential candidates. While the forums seemed a little underplanned and hastily arranged, it gave us the chance to see who might be leading our university. It made us feel like we had a say.

Since then, the administration has been nothing but interactive and transparent.

Our new president, George Hynd, is completing his first year and has already proven himself to be an invested and open individual.

He is willing to speak when he has the time. He visits campus events and is out there meeting and directly conversing with students.

On March 5 he spoke to the Psi Chi Honor Society about his 40 years of research and experience in psychology, child development and education.

On Tuesday from 10:15-11 a.m. he’ll be participating in OU’s first “Twitter Chat,” where he’ll field questions on OU’s goals and priorities.

His inauguration as OU’s sixth president will be in the O’rena on April 29, and there will be a special celebration for students on April 20 at noon in the Pioneer Food Court. Both ceremonies are open to the public.

Things like this are what make this year so much better than previous years, and we commend Oakland University for opening up and keeping things transparent. 

We realize it’s hard to lead a university. Things will always go wrong, there’s always someone upset, and when it comes to a university, the administration tends to take the hardest hits.

Compared to last year, however, we feel the administration as a whole really took charge and turned things around, and that’s something to be proud of.