Opinion: Deflections, Distractions, and IUPUI's Student Government

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UPDATE: 2/22/16 updated to reflect that Director of Strategic Communications at IUPUI Margie Smith-Simmons has received no complaints or statements to the contrary of our reporting.

UPDATE: 8:43 p.m. 2/22/16  update made to clarify information attributed to Margi Smith-Simmons.

Over the past few weeks we've published reports about the Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG). Thesereports detail how student government at IUPUI has been hijacked by President Anthony Greco.

In "The Systemic Problems in IUPUI's student Government," we revealed that GPSG Secretary Maria Lesch, had hired her sister, Sarah Harlan, to be the web developer for the publication The Graduate. Sarah Harlan had no background in web development at the time of her hire, but was given the job without any other students getting the opportunity to apply.

After hiring her sister, Lesch used her position on the GPSG executive board to lobby to have her sister paid a stipend. Sarah is receiving $700 this semester as the result of her sister's efforts. This is nepotism, plain and simple.

Something we haven’t reported on yet is the other case of nepotism in the GPSG involving President Greco and his girlfriend, Claire Riley. Riley is in her second year as Initiative Committee Chair to the GPSG--an executive position that gives her a $1,500 stipend.

Riley and Greco or, as they like to be known on Facebook, "Lady-Claire Riley" and "Sir-Tony Greco" have been dating for 8 years. Claire graduated from Ball State and then came to IUPUI for graduate school. Now at IUPUI, Riley and Greco have apparently been "power coupling."

I wouldn't dispute this "power coupling" claim, because Greco, after voting to give himself a 50% raise during this past summer, will be paid $7,500 of student fees this year. Riley received $1,500 of student fees. That's definitely a power move—steering student fees into your own pockets.

President Greco tried to flex his power even more this past week by telling members of the GPSG that they are not allowed to talk to The Campus Citizen. Greco went as far as contacting GPSG members that he thought were going to talk to us just to tell them they couldn't. While Greco has immense power over who gets a paycheck from the GPSG, he doesn't actually have the power to restrict members from speaking to the media.

President Greco has also tried to discredit The Campus Citizen.

He has told several individuals that the only reason The Campus Citizen has been reporting on GPSG malfeasance is because we're upset that an unethical funding agreement from 2014 between The Campus Citizen print edition and the student government fell through.

From the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics, "deny special treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage."

In the fall of 2014, The Campus Citizen was a print publication that was poorly run. We missed publication dates, didn't track records well—it was an all around struggle. This isn't a secret. In fact, I opened the 2015 Fall semester with a letter from the editor that discussed the burning heap TheCampusCitizen.com staff inherited.

The print regime made a deal with the student government agreeing that a large percentage of The Campus Citizen content would be about student government and grad students in exchange for $10,000.

President Greco would also have people believe that TheCampusCitizen.com staff is unhappy that we're not in print anymore, but that is so far from the truth it's laughable. Printing a newspaper sucks. Print is a lot of work, costs a ton of money, and has limited readership potential.

I began pushing for a greater online presence within weeks of joining The Campus Citizen. I believed that print was a waste of money and time. Why spend $500 to print 400 copies of a newspaper when we could have a website for $8 a month that reaches anyone with Internet?

The current staff’s vision for The Campus Citizen to become TheCampusCitizen.com was finally fulfilled when I took over as editor-in-chief in April of 2015. I immediately killed any and all discussions of a print edition and moved us onto the Internet.

Mark Haab became TheCampusCitizen.com's advisor in the fall of 2015. When Haab and I first met, he spent the first 15 minutes trying to convince me to have a print edition of TheCampusCitizen.com. Haab explained how he'd help ensure printing went smoothly and that we would have the funds to do it with.

I declined. I explained to him that I felt any money we might receive would be better spent on a website and equipment such as cameras, microphones, et cetera. I also wasn't interested in dealing with the headache that I knew printing would be.

It is a fact that the staff of TheCampusCitizen.com decided in April of 2015 that we would not print, that we did not want to print, and that we would be online only moving forward. During TheCampusCitizen.com's first week we reached more people than was even possible in print. Not only did we reach more people, but we did it for less than $20, or 0.2% of Greco's student-fee funded salary this year.

TheCampusCitizen.com was designed so that we would never need money from anyone. We built ourselves up so that we never have to compromise what we're doing out of a concern for funding.

But President Greco knows all of this. I told him all about it when we met for lunch over the summer to discuss a partnership between TheCampusCitizen.com and The Graduate. Then Deputy Editor, Benjamin Cooley, told Greco and Lesch that we were interested in working together, but he made it clear we wanted nothing to do with any propaganda. All parties understood if that's what The Graduate became, then we wouldn't work with them.

Cooley expressed this sentiment to the point that I worried he would offend Greco and Lesch. In hindsight, he was spot on. It was at this meeting that I told Greco and Lesch about our website provider, Squarespace, and I gave Lesch the idea to look for sponsorships as a revenue stream for The Graduate. They took both ideas and ran with them.

First, they solicited sponsorships. I discussed this in a previous article, but these sponsorships were totally unethical. For $500 The Graduate staff would write an "article" about whatever someone wanted. In case you don't want to scroll back up: yes, that violates the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics.

Then they "built" a website that is a poor imitation of TheCampusCitizen.com. That's not to say we have ownership over the templates that Squarespace offers or that our design is unique, but their site is a knockoff of ours. I wouldn't care, but it sucked seeing Cooley's hard work get ripped-off.

Cooley put in countless hours designing our website, and he did it all for free. He'll never see a dime for his work, and that's all right with him. But I think Cooley has every right to be a little sore about Sarah Harlan doing a bad impression of him and getting paid $700 for it. Wouldn't you?

(Yes, I am aware that I didn't link to their website.)

It's not surprising that Greco has pushed this narrative of my staff and I being "hurt" and seeking vengeance. It's an attempt to undermine our credibility while distracting you from what the student government is doing.

Notice that Greco hasn't said anything we’ve reported is false but rather that we're vindictive jerks and buffoons. That's because everything we've reported is true. That isn’t me backing up my own work. While there was a complaint lodged with Director of Strategic Communications Margie Smith-Simmons about an inerview, no one has challenged the accuracy of what was reported.

Greco will say whatever most benefits him in a given moment. He'll even make stuff up.

When Greco and I spoke in January, the topic of how much TheCampusCitizen.com's faculty advisor gets paid was brought up. Greco repeatedly attempted to equate TheCampusCitizen.com having an advisor and internships (that students pay to participate in) to The Graduate receiving $5,000 in funding, the backing of the student government, and the stipends they pay their friends and family.

In a last ditch effort, Greco asked me how much I thought TheCampusCitizen.com's advisor, Haab, was paid. I told him I didn't know. Unhappy with my answer, Greco attempted to back me into a corner by lying about Department of Journalism Chair Jonas Bjork.

"He [Haab] gets $20,000 in part to be your advisor," Greco lied. "I know he gets $20,000 in part to be your advisor because the department head, who your advisor works for, told me."

When asked for comment, Department of Journalism Chair Jonas Bjork said, "I have told him no such thing. We have exchanged a few emails and I can tell you that as a part-timer Mr. Haab makes nothing like that and I have never told him the sum of $20,000. So I don't know what to make of that, but it certainly has not come from me and it's not true."

There's a reason that the student government hasn't responded to our reports. There's nothing to say except that they're all true.

Have questions or comments about this article? Tweet @DavidSchroeder_ and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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