Monday, May 31, 2004

Distraction studies 

Charles Nuckolls is utterly brilliant with this new term, which he thinks university administrators already study.
Want to distract a professor from examining health care fraud or financial wrongdoing in the Administration? Just start talking about affirmative action, diversity training, or multiculturalism. Left and right will oblige by dropping everything as they fill the trenches for another repeat-performance of their carefully scripted battle scenario.

Administrators love it when faculty do that. It keeps them from sniffing around the accounting books.
Often local journalists assist them, David Beito suggests:
Distraction studies can only flourish, however, when reporters covering the campus beat also fail to examine the hard questions. Instead of investigative journalism, their main sources seem to be press releases from campus public relations offices and/or friendly interviews with administrators. Such reporters appear to be more interested in "feel good" puff pieces than exploring the possible underside of campus administration including grade inflation, allegations of administrative mismanagement and waste, and officially sanctioned censorship of dissenting points of view. When given possible leads on such stories, they respond with silence.
I've spent time talking to local reporters here about this problem, and at least those I talk to get it. They realize that the administration is selling them stories. My suggestion is always to get hold of the higher-ed reporter at your local newspaper and offer to meet him or her with members of your own organization (like David and Charles would with ASA.) Give them contact numbers for the Palm Pilots or Rolodexes. It helps to befriend an editor. And make sure you get out regular press releases to address major issues. You can't expect the reporter to sniff the real story out for him or herself. You need to take them there. We've had little success with the editorial page people here, but the ed reporter at the Times has been willing to listen and give us some space in her columns. So when the administration wanted its own distraction story, the story got a different writer.