On Monday, Oct. 26, the Loyolan published an anonymous contributor opinion article that highlights the state of the endowment. The following Thursday, two pieces in LMU This Week were published in response.
Although the pieces were stated to be written in “the spirit of LMU’s mission and transparency,” we believe the statements were inappropriate in their language and presentation. As journalists and students, we were troubled by the content of the response, and we are thankful for the outpouring of support we have received from alumni, faculty, staff and fellow students over the last week and a half.
The response by the administration (or those involved in writing the unsigned pieces) included a renouncing of the claims made by the anonymous source, criticisms of the Loyolan’s anonymity process and judgment of its own students' integrity.
The letters published by the administration leave no other interpretation than an attempt to halt possible community conversation regarding LMU’s finances, and a defensive response to a legitimate criticism of LMU’s endowment growth.
One of the two letters published in LMU This Week states that “LMU recognizes the need to grow the endowment and is working toward that shared goal with its Board of Trustees and community of alumni, friends, and donors.”
As an executive board, we agree that growing the endowment is a necessary goal — as would the writer of the anonymous op-ed.
With the hopes of maintaining fruitful community engagement with the Loyolan's anonymous article, we offer some insight to our publishing process and some additional information to support the claims made.
One of the corrections provided by the administration stated that Baker’s departure from the University “was not buried deep on a website. His departure was announced publicly to hundreds of community members and colleagues in several letters that were shared in a timely, transparent manner.” However, the letter sourced to prove that Baker’s departure was publicly announced to the LMU community is addressed only to the staff of University Advancement (UA). In the letter, President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., writes, “I recognize that your division has undergone significant leadership changes in the past two years.”
Another correction stated by the administration was that the title of the op-ed promoted a “false premise as its basis.” The title, “Advancement’s revolving door keeps spinning,” reflects the same truth that President Snyder stated in the above letter to University Advancement: that UA has gone through significant leadership changes in the past two years.
One of the main questions posed by the administration regards the Loyolan’s use of anonymity. In the accompanying board editorial published with the op-ed, the executive board outlined the process of granting anonymity. In the LMU This Week pieces, the administration expressed disappointment in our decision to adhere to this policy.
The administration is right in saying that publishing an anonymous op-ed is a rare journalistic move reserved for when someone’s livelihood or life is in peril. We believed our guest contributor met these qualifications, and therefore they were granted anonymity. We believed that this information was important enough to publish, even anonymously. That is why we verified all figures contained in the piece.
It would be against both Loyolan policy and journalistic ethics to offer the president prior review of the op-ed. Instead, as a professional courtesy, the Loyolan reached out to President Snyder to let him know that an article with a sensitive subject matter would be published in the coming days. President Snyder, through a spokesperson, declined to make a statement via the Loyolan, stating that he does not respond to anonymous articles.
Instead, the way the administration or those involved chose to interact with the opinion article and the students at the Loyolan was through pieces in LMU This Week that attacked our integrity and decision to grant anonymity — pieces that did not clearly state their own authors. It was an attack that challenges the core of what we do.
Questioning the Loyolan’s journalistic integrity at a time when journalism is constantly under attack from our country’s top leaders is not only harmful, but undermines the hard work that all the student journalists put in at the Loyolan. It contributes to a dangerous “fake news” narrative that plagues all of journalism today.
Additionally, the administration’s actions come at a time at which the LMU community is spread across the world, and maintaining a sense of connectedness with the school is immensely challenging. During this period, administration has made clear that they want to keep our community together. Their choices in responding to the anonymous piece we published suggest otherwise.
While we disagree with the administration's response and logic, it should be noted that first lady and professor Carol Costello and the president have always been generous with their time and the Loyolan, and that ultimately we all want the best for the University that we love.
As Lions, we will continue to do our jobs as student journalists to bring our readers truthful information with integrity.