Opinion: Dean of Students Addresses Record Transparency Among Student Organizations

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UPDATE: 10:46 updated headline to reflect this is an opinion piece

I didn’t know who Jason Spratt was beyond what my colleagues have written for The Campus Citizen. I was excited to learn about him for myself, but I left feeling uneasy and upset.

I left feeling uneasy and upset because Spratt used his platform to attempt to undermine our credibility. Without addressing the claims made in our reporting, Spratt dismissed it as The Campus Citizen making mountains out of mole hills.

Regarding our reporting on the student government's poor record keeping, Spratt said, “There’s nothing that says you must maintain this record for eternity for a student organization.”

This is Spratt attempting to misdirect his audience by misrepresenting the scope of the records that The Campus Citizen requested. We only requested records dating back to 2013. By exaggerating the scope of the record requests and ignoring the substance of the reporting, Spratt is effectively issuing a non-denial denial.

By disregarding state laws on record keeping and the GPSG’s own constitution, Spratt demonstrates that he doesn’t believe the lapse in record keeping matters.

This is our Dean of Students at IUPUI minimizing the importance of transparency. This attitude of disregard sets the tone for other organizations on campus. This is best exemplified by the organization that Spratt himself advises—the student government.

If a student organization is using their funding in appropriate ways, they shouldn’t worry about releasing their records. If this is just a simple lapse in records, why not say that? Instead the student government has remained silent on this issue.

Dean Jason Spratt. (Photo from Student Affairs at IUPUI)

Indiana’s public access laws clarifies that anything that is publicly funded, either fully or partially, are required to make their records available. It also states that records should be given in a reasonable amount of time.

The GPSG and their advisor’s attitudes about providing records specifically bothers me because seeking information should not be seen as a negative thing. If a student organization receives funding and uses it for valid purposes, it should have no issues showing records of this.

I think it’s also important to mention that if student journalists don’t check on records and other information, who would? The average citizen deserves a chance to know what goes on. When an organization is hesitant to comply with records requests, we should be wondering why.

The next part of this offended me deeply as a journalist, as a student at IUPUI, and as a member of The Campus Citizen. I think of it as the opposite of what my goals are.

“I think the important thing about student media is you look for a juicy story and if there’s not a juicy story they try to create a little bit more juice. And I think the media is like that—it just bleeds and bleeds. No one talks about the great stuff that happened yesterday," Spratt said.

The Campus Citizen writes according to the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) code of ethics. News can be bad or good, but it’s not a journalist's job to paint the picture. It’s our job simply to report facts. I want to mention that we choose the media we see. That being said, if the media only covers positive pieces that require no digging, are they fulfilling their duties?

A form of media that only contains what is positively happening is akin to propaganda. There must be a balance and the students at IUPUI deserve to know the bad with the good especially when they are directly impacted.

I take my duties as a journalist very seriously. Journalists are supposed to be the watchdogs. We are supposed to dig until we find the bones. The reality is journalists present facts. We do not create them.

He is correct in saying that no one talks about the great stuff, but only when it’s not newsworthy. The people look to their media to uncover injustices or to learn something relevant to them.  No one cares about the mundane and most of us assume a student organization is doing positive things.

If he wishes for more positive pieces, I would suggest doing more positive things that are out of the ordinary.

There is a huge difference between sponsored content, public relations, and news. I think it’s apparent our Dean of Students does not know the difference, and this is further shown with his advising of the USG and GPSG and his opinions of the independent student media.

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