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Editorial: Lab fire handling part of larger problem

By The East Texan editorial board
On April 16, 2010

The university's handling of the recent science lab fire and its efforts to control information in the aftermath clearly demonstrates this: the "transparency" this administration says it wants to have only applies when they stand to benefit from it.

We understand that everyone, if given a choice, wants to be portrayed in a positive light by the media. However, if the administration of this university chooses to base its public image on buzzwords like "integrity," then it must be held accountable for its mistakes. Simply put, if they screw up, all faculty members and students deserve to know about it.

The marketing communications department does not seem to agree with that. Assistant Vice President of Marketing Communications Randy Jolly said in an e-mail to Dean of Arts and Sciences Christine Evans to "inform department heads, professors and students to decline interviews and send all media inquiries to my attention" in regards to the fire, in what certainly seems like an attempt to keep some part of the story out of the media's hands.

What is more disturbing is that this edict from marketing communications has seemed to put a "gag order" on everyone employed at this university, not just about the fire, but about any subject. Need to ask a teacher about a project? Ask Randy Jolly. Need to ask a budget council member about tuition increases? Ask Randy Jolly. We had no idea Randy Jolly's knowledge was so well-rounded.

The fact that Jolly claims the e-mail was intended only for that specific incident does not matter. It demonstrates this university plans to stonewall any media inquiries any time a controversial issue arises in the future.

"Transparency" is a nice word that a lot of executives and administrators use when they want to appear like their actions will be made for the world to see, and all information about those actions will be made available to the public. That word means nothing if, at the first sign of trouble, the administration dives behind a curtain to get their story straight.

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