Letters from the Editor: Future imperfect
Be it the Title IX office, the UAF Police or the office of the Chancellor, you can count on one behavior from the leadership of our campus—a steadfast commitment to covering one’s own ass. This was the case a year ago when the grand failure of UAF’s Title IX program was revealed; unfortunately, it seems to be the university’s modus operandi today as well.
Can someone stop the time warp? Because the future seems an awful lot like the past. I feel like I could have written this a year ago—in fact, I’m pretty sure my predecessor wrote something along these same lines.
Without knowing much more than surface details, there appears to be a lot of blame to go around in the Wattum case. If the event played out exactly as we’ve heard, the alleged assailant naturally takes the lion’s share of the blame. The district attorney follows suit; for reasons unknown, they ignored the recommendation of our campus police and decided not to press charges in the incident. And the Title IX office’s response can be described as feckless and evasive, which would be pretty on-message for official responses considering our overall track record.
Our reports are by no means complete, as our reporters have received stoicism or silence while attempting to acquire documents through official channels. The new campus police chief seems to have a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the press, as even the most routine follow-up on less contentious incidents is met with resistance and exasperation on his part. Other contacts have shunted us to university spokeswoman Marmian Grimes, who has been as helpful as she can considering that every other official on campus seems to be deflecting to her. And you can always count on the odd resignation that coincides just a little too conveniently with such disputes.
There’s a bitter but important realization to be had from all this. Individual people, be they professors, officials or officers, tend to be likable and competent. But though UAF is made up of many of these likable, competent individuals, they serve as the cogs and gears of a machine made of rules and compliant people. Bureaucracies are not inherently good or bad, but they can be counted upon to act in their own self-interest and defense to the exception of other impulses. In our case, that means the interests of students all-too-frequently go out the window.
As a journalist, I can’t simply take the accuser’s version of events at face value; indeed, I can’t fairly call her anything aside “the accuser” without lending bias to the proceedings. What I need are facts, evidence and official reports rather than the “he-said she-said” that abounds; you, the reading public, deserve nothing less. If officials are less than forthcoming in providing this information to the press and the public, then we must use every means at our disposal to bring that data to light.
We don’t yet have everything we need, but that doesn’t leave us empty handed. We have the cooperation of the victim. We have the identity of the accused. We have devoted reporters and editors. Most importantly, we have something that the administration clearly does not: a commitment to the students on this campus. Rest assured, readers, that we will only consider this incident resolved once we’re satisfied that it has been reported fairly, thoroughly and without bias to either party.
Until that satisfaction comes, we here at the Sun Star will continue our tenacious pursuit of the truth.