Complaint halts search for School of Journalism director

By Kallie Cox, News Editor

Update 10/2: Dean Deborah Tudor has submitted her recommendation for director to the provost, who will also interview the candidate, and is awaiting approval. 

Update 9/25: The faculty have been alerted that the complaint has been resolved and they will know how the search will proceed on Monday. The story will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.

The search for a permanent director of the School of Journalism has been suspended after a complaint about the process, but faculty have not been told anything about the nature of the objection, who filed it or who will investigate it. 

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I’ve never heard of a situation like this where an important department process is held in suspended animation by a secret complaint, with unknown grievances from an unknown source to be decided by an unknown university official over an unknown period of time,” William Freivogel, professor and former director of the school, said.

Earlier this year, faculty and staff asked to begin the search for a permanent director of the School of Journalism. This request was granted, and the process began over the summer.

On Sept.10, Jan Thompson, a professor in radio, television and digital media, won two-thirds of the faculty vote to be elected director.

It is standard practice at SIUC to allow the faculty of a department, and in some cases staff to elect their directors and chairs. This plays into SIU’s principle of shared governance and its relationship with the Faculty Senate.

On Sept. 17, Deborah Tudor, interim dean of the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts, sent an email to the journalism faculty saying the search was being placed on hold.

“A complaint about the search process has been filed,” Tudor said in the email. “This means that the search is on hold until the complaint is resolved. I am not able to share details at this time.”

The administration has not told faculty of the School of Journalism the nature of the complaint, on what grounds it was filed, by whom, against whom or which university policy the search might have violated.

Freivogel, who was head of the search committee, said he has not heard of this happening before and the suspension of the search is unprecedented. 

Freivogel said the precedent within the college is for the dean and provost to approve of the person recommended for director by a super majority of the faculty.

Freivogel said it is important for the university to explain what is going on to the journalism school.

“I’m not insisting that the university name the complainant,” Freivogel said. “What I do think the faculty can insist on knowing is the nature of the complaint, the basis for the complaint, the person to whom the complaint was made, the person who will decide on the complaint, whether the faculty can respond and how soon there will be a decision.”

Thompson said she doesn’t know the nature of complaint, and no one has contacted her about it.

“I truly hope that this gets resolved, and that we can move forward,” she said. “I like to think a lot of people would like this to move forward in a positive way.”

Scott McClurg, the interim director of the School of Journalism, was one of the three candidates for director alongside Thompson and Kavita Karan.

“It turns out that this is more complicated than you would ever think it is. It seems to me that there are some people who are unhappy with the process and other people who are not,” McClurg said. “In terms of who might have created a grievance, I’m not – I really don’t know. And I know that the university will not tell us anything other than that.”

McClurg said faculty should be involved with the process and people should listen to them. 

David DiLalla, associate provost for academic administration, addressed faculty concerns in an email in which he said the provost’s office shares the goal of protecting this search, so that it may come to a successful conclusion. 

“For what it’s worth, I have not used the word ‘suspension,’ which connotes a formality that I do not believe is required,” DiLalla said in his response. “I do believe that it is prudent for us to pause while the complaint process is sorted out.”

DiLalla refused to meet with a Daily Egyptian reporter who went to his office seeking comment and did not respond to a phone number left for him to call.

In a separate email to faculty, Tudor said everything about the complaint is confidential and the investigation into it does not involve the dean’s office.

“The Office of the Provost has the administrative right to cancel or suspend searches, as do deans,” Tudor said. “I told the Provost Office I did not wish to cancel this search, but it is suspended until this complaint is resolved. We must follow this directive. Doing this will ensure a clean search process. Failure to follow it could prompt the Provost to cancel the search altogether.”

Tudor said she had not seen the complaint, her office is not involved in the investigation and the search has been paused and will continue when the issue is resolved.

Rae Goldsmith, university spokeswoman said she did not know anything about the situation and did not provide a university comment by print deadline.

This is an ongoing story and will be updated on our website as more information becomes available.

News Editor Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.

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