Another disgusted alum tells USC what’s what

USC Class of ’04 alum Craig Stern and I weren’t always on the same side of the political spectrum back when we wrote opinion columns for the Daily Trojan, but we’re on the same side of the Zach Fox scandal. Craig’s letter to Dr. Jackson is after the jump.

And remember, kids: you, too, can lambaste the USC administration for its arrogant, tyrannical behavior! The relevant e-mail addresses are: (Michael Jackson, Vice President of Student Affairs); (Lori White, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs): (Mona Cravens, Director of Student Publications); (Michael Parks, Director of the Annenberg School of Journalism), (Larry Pryor, Professor of Journalism and, like all the aforementioned people, member of the Media Board); and of course (Steven Sample, President of USC).

Dear Dr. Jackson,

It has been brought to my attention that the democratically-elected editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan has been unseated–or, indeed, not even permitted to take office–through administrative fiat. This matter concerns me for a variety of reasons: (1) it represents a heavy-handed approach injurious to the very fabric of an independent press at USC; (2) you have yet to offer any sort of public explanation for taking this drastic step; (3) the explanation you did offer was by proxy, and (4) aside from which, the reason offered was both conclusory and totally inadequate.

I write to you as a USC alumnus, a former Annenberg student, a former senior political columnist and a former assistant editor at the Daily Trojan newspaper. Based on my experience there, I can assure you that the students who run the Daily Trojan take the quality of the paper very seriously, and their choices with regard to how it ought to be run should not be lightly tossed aside. Surely, at the very least, you owe these students a personal explanation, if not an apology and repudiation of your failure to present their editor-in-chief for ratification.

What message do you seek to send to current and future alumni by this behavior? To prospective students? To other universities? That it is acceptable for men in positions of political power to dictate to the press how they shall conduct themselves in their operations? Many people at the Annenberg School have toiled for many years to build USC’s reputation as a respected school for journalism, and yet with one crass act, you have defecated upon their work. You have disgraced the very notion of journalistic ethics and independence upon which the profession is based. You should be ashamed of yourself, Dr. Jackson.

As a current law school student and future lawyer, I expect to begin making an ample income within the next few years. But so long as USC’s administrative officials bring disgrace to the principles of an independent press, rest assured that my money will be going elsewhere. We have enough problems with politicians bullying the press in our federal government–and I’ll be damned if I spend even a cent supporting that type of thuggery in my own alma mater.

Craig J. Stern


3 Responses to “Another disgusted alum tells USC what’s what”

  1. Leanna Loomer says:

    All you alums of SC,
    My sympathy to you in the wake of Mr. Jackson’s outburst of In Loco Tyrannus. I remember very well the rah-rah speech he made to Preview candidates to persuade them of the great spirit of the institution.

    Since the Daily Trojan is (according to the university) an independent, student-run organization, this action begs the question: What process will the administration choose to replace the repudiated election of editor by the organization itself? Another election? A student petition for another candidate? An appointment by (and perhaps from) Michael Jackson’s office?

    I’ll be paying off for some time to come a Parent Plus we took on to assist Brendan in attending USC and get a great education in journalism. Well, I believe he did get that, before the coup. I’ve never heard of a procedure like this even in the Newington Town Crier.

    Please keep us posted.

  2. a.j. says:

    You know, I haven’t send in my contribution to the university yet … perhaps, I should print-out the article and send it along with an empty envelop back to the University.

  3. Mountain out of Molehill says:

    Michael Jackson “tyrannical”? Please, Brendan, let’s not be overly dramatic. The Daily Trojan gets many perks from the university, including –as you mention– an endless stream of advertising revenue and plush offices in prime student union real estate. The question to ask is, “Does Jackson have the authority to approve the DT editor or not?” Clearly he does. Exercising one’s proper authority hardly constitutes “tyranny.” Don’t bitch just because you disagree with Jackson’s decision.

    The DT has exercised notorious heavy-handedness in its dealings with the student body for years, with no checks and no balance. I’ve had a couple of run-ins with unaccountable DT editors, including once when I outed a plagiarized editorial (and even found the book and page from which the article was –verbatim– plagiarized). The aloof DT editor did nothing. I, for one, applaud the university for finally taking action and reining in some of the prima donnas at DT. Please stop accusing Jackson of “aloofness” when the adjective should be more appropriately directed at the DT staff.

    It is the nature of journalists to circle the wagons and protect their own whenever there are peceived threats from the outside world (case in point, Newspaper editorials unanimously proclaiming journalists shouldn’t have to testify before grand juries even when they witness crimes, such as those who witnessed the leaking of Valerie Plaime’s identity). Brendan, don’t fall into this group-think mentality!