Friday, October 14, 2011

The University Chancellor Who Won’t Talk


The Plain Dealer’s Rich Exner did an excellent piece on how fees charged to academic students fund the athletic programs of Ohio's Universities (except Ohio State, one of the handful of universities in the country that makes money).   But he buried something that should have been highlighted.
This is a public official.   This is the governor-appointed chancellor of Ohio's university system.  He has an obligation to explain why academic students, many of whom are taking out loans and working jobs to pay for school, have to pay more so the athletes can go to college for free.  And the press has an obligation to hold the public officials accountable.
News organizations shouldn’t bury such information; they need to highlight it.
We’ve moved to the era of “no comment”  or comment by press release.  And public officials can get away with it because the press allows it.
By the way, one reason parents and students in Ohio don't realize how much they pay each semester to the athletic department is because many universities don't provide line-item detail on the bill.   You can see that breakdown on a project my computer-assisted reporting class did.  "Examining the University Bill" provides the breakdown for universities in the Mid American Conference.   At Kent State University, students pay $24 dollars per credit hour (capped at 11 credits) to the athletic department.  That's true for all students, even distance-learning students who never set foot on campus.  So a distance-learning student taking a 3-credit course in our new online public relations masters program gets to pay $72 dollars (3 X $24/credit hour) to the athletic department.  
If you think the governor-appointed chancellor of the university system should explain why he thinks that is appropriate, write and ask him.  His address is 
Jim Petro (Chancellor who won't do an interview with the Plain Dealer)
Ohio Board of Regents
30 East Broad Street, 36th floor
Columbus, OH 43215-3414
General: 614-466-6000
When journalism fails, bad things happen.
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