To the staff of The California Aggie,
Yesterday, a group of Aggie staff members attended a scheduled Campus Media Board meeting in Dutton Hall and presented a letter requesting our resignations as editor in chief and campus editor, respectively.
While we are open to hearing and discussing the issues these 31 staff members presented, we are incredibly disheartened by the unprofessional manner in which these concerns were addressed.
There is a very clear method to addressing concerns at The Aggie. If a problem is perceived to involve a desk editor, for example, the concerned party must first address the desk editor. If that method fails, the concerned party must then approach the managing editor, whose job it is to oversee the desk editors and field personnel complaints. If that medium does not adequately satisfy the concerned party, he or she can then address the perceived issue with the editor in chief. Only after all three methods fail may a party file a fair and justified grievance with the Campus Media Board, a body that oversees the selection of The Aggie’s editor in chief each year.
Unfortunately, the staff members who have asked for our resignations did not follow this clear-cut method of addressing concerns. None of them approached either of us nor did any of them ever approach Marion Everidge, the managing editor, about any of these concerns. This group of staff members instead elected to directly confront and publicly humiliate us — and our institution — at yesterday’s Campus Media Board meeting by dragging internal personal issues into the public.
Had these staff members chosen to resolve their perceived complaints within The Aggie first, we would have worked to immediately resolve them. Unfortunately, we were never given that opportunity.
That being said, we remain open to hearing any concerns any staff member may have. If you would like to have an individual, sit-down meeting with either of us or with Marion, please contact us by phone, e-mail or in person so we may arrange a meeting. We would be happy to continue to help any staff member resolve any problems that may arise, but we are unable to do that if we are not made aware of the problems.
However inappropriate the manner in which the 31 staff members chose to present their perceived complaints, we have heard them and would like to address each of their “demands,” which they ask be met by 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, 2007.
The first “demand” states: “…the desk editor overseeing the section where plagiarism takes place should meet the same fate as the writer accused of committing the act. If you so determine that former Senior Staff Writer Eddie Lee has no place in The Aggie, then you should proceed by asking Campus Editor Talia Kennedy for an immediate resignation.”
Though desk editors are not responsible for writers’ decisions to commit plagiarism — one of the worst infractions someone who claims to be a writer can commit — Peter Hamilton has gladly met this demand and asked Talia Kennedy for her resignation. She has politely and respectfully refused to give it. She is not responsible for Eddie Lee’s choice to plagiarize.
Furthermore, Talia Kennedy discussed plagiarism with Eddie Lee when they edited his ill-fated story, and Eddie Lee chose not to inform Talia Kennedy, as is a writer’s duty, that the story was plagiarized. He did, however, admit to plagiarism during a meeting with Peter Hamilton, Marion Everidge and Talia Kennedy, during which time he admirably apologized for the shame his act has brought on The Aggie.
In their letter, the staff members accuse Talia Kennedy and Peter Hamilton of having “ulterior motives” in firing Eddie Lee, stating that “Ms. Kennedy’s most recent interest in ascending to the position of editor in chief for the 2007-2008 production year.” To clarify, Talia Kennedy did not apply for the position of editor in chief nor did she ever express interest in applying for it. Talia Kennedy has been accepted to a top graduate school of journalism, which she will be attending this fall. Those closest to Talia Kennedy are aware of this fact, further proving that those staff members who elected to sign the letter are not in regular contact or discussion with Talia Kennedy.
The second “demand” outlined in the letter states that the undersigned “can no longer stand behind any format of training [Peter Hamilton] devise[s] for the future staff of editors.” Again, we are happy to meet this “demand.” No formal training will be provided for the incoming 2007-2008 editors, managers and directors.
The final “demand” involves the expenditure request submitted by Talia Kennedy to The Aggie’s business manager, Mia Szmuch, to be reimbursed for expenses incurred while attending and traveling to and from the 2007 California College Media Association Awards Banquet in San Simeon, Calif. over the weekend of Apr. 28, 2007. We have a few concerns regarding this “demand:” First, Mia Szmuch deplorably chose to share the contents of the confidential expenditure request with the rest of the staff, an action deserving of a reprimand at least and her termination at most. However, because Mia Szmuch has breached the bounds of her job description, we feel forced to discuss the CCMA expenses.
While every editor was invited to attend the CCMA awards, none but Peter Hamilton and Talia Kennedy chose to; thus, they were the only employees who represented The Aggie at the weekend event. The expenditure request form asks for reimbursement for hotel and travel expenses, no different than expenses for which other editors have requested they be reimbursed.
However, because the staff members who signed the letter feel the amount requested is exorbitant, Talia Kennedy would be happy to sit down with Mark Champagne, who oversees the approval of expenditure requests, to address the concerns. Because the staff has demanded it, she is willing to pay for a portion of the business trip expenses out of her own pocket, though she acknowledges she is being forced to comply with this unfair and discriminatory demand by the staff members who signed the letter.
We would like to formally express the level of discomfort we now feel in being at The Aggie with the staff members who elected to sign the letter. To be the victims of such malicious slander as we were at the Media Board meeting is something no one should have to experience.
Nevertheless, we are committed to completing our 2006-2007 terms as editor in chief and campus editor, respectively. We feel that the issues raised by those who signed the letter are important, but do not warrant calling for our resignations — an extreme request that should only be resorted to when all other avenues of communication and attempts at conflict resolution have been exhausted.
It is ironic that many of the sentiments of those staff members present at the Media Board meeting stressed ideals of professionalism, while clearly showing they lack any by taking such a course of action. Moreover, if they truly did have the best interests of The Aggie in mind, as they repeatedly stated, they would not have made a mockery of our institution by bringing these internal issues into the public spotlight.
As stated during the Media Board meeting, we respectfully request the resignation of those staff members who signed or endorse the letter who are unwilling to work with us to resolve any issues. We request they kindly submit their resignations by 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, 2007.
We would like to thank those of you who have expressed your support of and continued faith in us. Again, if any staff member would like to voice concerns, ask questions or suggest recommendations, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Editor in Chief