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11.12.2004

Overheard

I wasn't on campus my senior year, but I had enough credits to eat at the Grille all through my junior year -- and I did.

One day, I was sitting in the union a table away from two female hall directors (neither are still at Taylor, to my knowledge). They didn't know who I was -- or at least, what I looked like. I listened, catching bits and pieces of their conversation, what they were saying -- about me.

It was mostly in the context of Youth Conference, so I had little doubt about where they got their information -- highly personal, speculative information -- that seemed to lead them to a conclusion that I shouldn't be working with Youth Conference (more to come on YC later).

It sent chills down my spine, and it still does. It seem that there's some kind of mentality that violating a person's right to privacy and gossiping is okay amongst some of the student development staff at Taylor -- as though they have a right and obligation to share things about their students with each other that they probably shouldn't know themselves. I would just like to know what basis of reasoning has brought them to this idea.

11.10.2004

More about the Chronicle and Taylor

This is some of what Journalism.org says we should expect from journalists:

We should expect proof that the journalists' first loyalty is to citizens:

[snip]
  • We should expect news companies to disclose any synergy, connecting partnerships or conflicts of interest as they relate to a particular story. This includes reporting on a news organization's own lobbying efforts.


3. We should expect journalists to maintain independence from those they cover:

[snip]
  • While journalists need not be neutral, we should expect they will not have divided loyalties. If journalists get too close to those they cover it only makes it more difficult for them to understand or convey all sides. ...

  • Journalists' work should display evidence of independent thinking-- not always criticism of one side and praise of the other.
[snip]

Is the Chronicle Conflicted?

It's the end of business, four days later since I sent the e-email below regarding the extreme conflict of interest represented by allowing Taylor to pass its Director of News Services off as an objective reporter in regard to Taylor.

The surprise: no response yet. I may send again, or I may just send it off to the president of Indiana Newspapers for Gannett. We'll see.

11.08.2004

Timeline

In the interest of fairness and accuracy, I've gone through all my records to build a timeline of the events I discribed in the post below.

  • Monday, December 2nd, 2002 -- Professor Downs asks in an e-mail when I am returning to campus and says she'll "need some type of summary from (my) supervisor" before she can turn in a grade.
  • Monday, December 2nd, 2002 -- (around 6:30 pm, which was probably the minute I got home since I couldn't access my personal accounts at work) I responded saying "I'll let my supervisor know about what you need...when are grades due?"
  • Thursday, December 5th, 2002 -- my last day in the White House. We spent the week handling press conferences for the smart border initiative and I was training a staffer to replace me. They were left completely understaffed in the middle of a critical juncture with my leaving, as the DHS bill had just been signed. They were in the middle of the transition before the new department came into effect.
  • sometime between December 12th - 20th, I talked with my supervisor who said the evaluation had been written and was awaiting clearance to be relased to the school. I can't remember the exact date.
  • Friday, December 20th, 2002 -- an e-mail was sent from Professor Downs that said "I need immediate feedback from your supervisor in order to give you a grade."
  • Monday, December 23rd, 2002 -- 1:35 a.m., Professor Downs e-mails Legatha Adkison telling her that she emailed me about hearing from my supervisor. The subject of the e-mail is "justin again." She says I asked "for a deadline" -- which is not true as far as I can tell. The e-mails I still have show I asked when grades where due. I remember asking that specifically because I understood that nature of where I was and knew that the chances of getting such a document even by the time grades were due were arlready slim -- let alone a Professor Downs imposed deadline. She tells Legatha that she set the deadline at "Monday of last week" which would've been the 16th, I believe. I don't believe she communicated that to me or the answer to my question as to when grades are due. That deadline would've been near impossible to meet, anyway. She may have told me, but I don't have e-mails to that effect and don't remember it.
  • Monday, December 23rd, 2002 -- Visiting family for the Christmas season, I received her Friday e-mail Monday mid-day. Mind you, Professor Downs had my cell phone number as well as contact numbers for my supervisors in the White House -- including direct lines which were never given out to the public.
  • Monday, December 23rd, 2002 -- around 1 p.m., I called my supervisor. In her business of helping to run the federal governement, she forgot to fax the form. There was some scheduling thing with either Governor Ridge, or the Ad Council (I can't remember which) that day and she said she would send it as soon as possible.
  • Monday, December 23rd, 2002 -- 2:32 p.m., Professor Downs sends another e-mail. It says,"since I have had no reports from you and I have not heard from your supervisors and grades are due in two and a half hours, I am forced to turn in an F for your grade."
  • Monday, December 23rd, 2002 -- 4:16 p.m., my supervisor faxes the form to the school 45 minutes before grades are due.
  • Monday, December 23rd, 2002 -- 4:56 p.m., I receive Professor Down's e-mail from earlier that day and immediately respond, telling her the evaluation had been set. I reminded her that she had other contact information for me and the White House that she didn't bother to use, seeing that the situation was that critical.
  • Monday, December 23rd, 2002 -- 7:51 p.m, Professor Downs responds, copying her e-mail to Legatha Adkison. She says, in part, "please do not put the blame on me for this. You are a responsible young man who knew the rules (what rules?) when you went for your practicum. ... I did remind you that I needed the infromation, that should have been enough. ... I'm sure that the people in DC are busy, as are those at Taylor (is she kidding? That confirmed me that she had no idea the level of government she was dealing with). You need to step up to the plate and quit blaming others. ... I am not at Taylor tonight, nor do I plan to go over there tomorrow..."
  • Saturday, December 28th, 2002 -- 6:05 p.m., Jan Pletcher sends an e-mail, copied to Donna Downs, and Legatha Adkison. She informs me that she's the new department chair (the fourth in three years). She said many things, but these are the highlights for now: "It is not the repsonsibility of the faculty supervisor to contact the on-site supervisor for feedback ..." Reasonable, I guess -- but they're still telling me after the fact and this was hardly a routine internship or a routine situation. It makes me wonder, though, what is the responsibility of the faculty supervisor? She continued "I am fully aware that Professor Downs, Mrs. Adkison and myself as your advisor, had difficulty contacting you in the stages of your practicum (I had moved alone to a new city with no phone and an e-mail address in the White House that I couldn't give out). We were not informed as to the nature of your practicum until well after what is considered to be a reasonable amount of time (I informed them as soon as I knew, August 23rd, before that they knew of my prior plans to intern with Senator Brownback). It is inappropriate for you to place blame on Professor Downs... (innappropriate is contacting someone's counselor for information about them, but I digress)." Later she said, "I do know that Professor Downs spoke to you in person at mideterm and asked you for information. She has also e-mailed you on several occassions." Not true. When I was on campus at mid-terms, after telling her that I had been robbed at gun point in DC and beaten by my attackers, her response was, "I hope they're taking care of you." Then she walked away. Fortunately, the White House did bother to take care of me, because Taylor didn't.
The unreasonable amount of time comment probably comes from this exchange earlier in the semester.
  • Early after starting work, in September 2002, Professor Downs e-mailed me (I believe, I can't find the copy of the e-mail) asking for my job description. I told my direct supervisor at that time. In fact, I remember telling her several times that I needed it, copying my office supervisor on the e-mails. Eventually, my office supervisor interrupted, saying she would do it, as my direct supervisor just didn't have the time to do things like that. And she meant that literally.
  • As soon as it was in my hands, I sent it off. Several days later, I received an e-mail from Professor Downs (and this if from memory) that didn't acknowledge that I'd sent her anything and asked to hear from my supervisor.
  • I told my supervisor, and she sent an e-mail on Friday September 20th, 2002 essentially introducing herself to Professor Downs and providing direct contact information. Those e-mails are Presidential record and I can't quote from them here, though my personal account was cc'ed.
  • Professor Downs responded Monday, September 23th, 2002 at 2:44 p.m. She asks for the very job description I'd sent her and the contact information already sent in the previous e-mail -- plus an address (I guess not everyone knows what 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is).
  • My supervisor sends the same job description back to Professor Downs on Monday, October 7th, 2002 at 5:48 p.m. (and that's a testament to how incredibly overworked they are -- they're not careless, they just can't get to little things like that in a normal day). There was no response and my supervisor says that's the last she ever heard from Professor Downs.
But according to Jan Pletcher, that's all my fault. Really, it's the Secret Service's fault. If they'd just let me bring my mind-control gun to work -- I could've made my supervisors jump at my beck and call. I mean, they're just White House staffers. They don't have better things to do, I'm sure.

PS - Jan Pletcher told Donna Downs to change the grade to passing and informed me December 28th, 2003.

Haloscan

I've added Haloscan in an attempt to do away with the Blogger commenting system. All the comments left on the old system should still be viewable via the individual archive pages.

The allegation: An issue with a professor

See "Timeline" for a more detailed retelling of this story.

This one was fairly true, if I'm interpreting it right. I did have an issue with a professor, and I still do. The one in question: Donna Downs (again, guessing from Jan Pletcher's e-mail).

Where it starts, I'm not very sure. Where it ended was her giving me an F for my internship -- that she was supposed to be supervising. Well, where it ended was her being told to change my grade to passing as it should have been from the beginning.

The failing grade came from Professor Downs telling that registrar and the Academic Dean at Taylor that her "trust of me" was slim and that she had been going on faith that I was actually at my internship working. She hadn't received an evaluation from my on-site supervisor by the time grades were due and felt "uncomfortable" giving me a passing grade without it.

Problem one, if she had done her job as an internship supervisor she would've had the material she needed and would've had no question that I was, in fact, where I said I was.

Now, why she didn't get the evaluation is quite simple. I was told she needed it one day before I left my internship. I of course passed the information off to my on-site supervisor. I was assured that she would send it as soon as possible. Now, as soon as possible meant a very different thing where I was working than it does in the real world. Because I was working in the White House.

My supervisor was a special assistant supporting the communications staff for Office of Homeland Security -- possibly one of the most understaffed, busiest communications offices in the federal government at that point. These are people who work 10 - 12 hour, non-stop, stress filled days routinely. Her responsibility to supervise me was added to her other tasks. Long story short, she forgot to send the evaluation.

Now, this was apparently my fault. I can't see how, really -- for one, I wasn't there. Two, the secret service would never let me bring my mind-control gun into the White House, so it was very diffcult to make my supervisors jump at my command.

I wasn't told that the evaluation was never sent to the school until the very day that grades were due. Professor Downs apparently waited until the last minute to tell me, as well. Because as soon as I found out, I put in a call and my White House supervisor had it faxed within minutes. Now, Professor Downs had my supervisor's phone number, and mine -- but she couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone to get what she needed. When I told Professor Downs that the evaluation had been faxed -- her response was that she had left her office and wasn't going back to get it.

Let's add to that that she at least intimated to some on campus that I wasn't really there, working either. That I had made it up. Then, let's consider why she never picked up a phone to call my supervisor -- ever -- during the entire four months I was in DC. Why she never made a field visit, though every other intern in my office had visits from their professors (including one from Notre Dame). Then, let's consider why my White House supervisor would ask me, "Why don't I ever hear from your professor? I hear from the other one's all the time." Let's consider that I wasn't required to do any journaling, write any papers or do any kind of work to turn into Professor Downs, though that's a normal requirement for internships and practicums. Let's consider why I wasn't informed of her need for an evaluation until the very last minute.

Now, let's consider that this White House evaluation, a protected Presidential record, that was last in the hands of the Communication Arts Department is conveniently missing. I was told this only after several request for a copy of it went ignored.

Maybe my job makes me see conspiracies where there really aren't any -- but if it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, acts like a duck...

All this to say, I complained -- and I complained loudly. The registrar at the time (Legatha Adkison) had been a pain in my side for many months (as she was most Seniors) and she took every opportunity to remind me that if I didn't complete all requirements on time I wouldn't graduate in January 2003 -- including a passing grade on my internship by December 31st of 2002. Donna's solution was that we'd "talk about it" when I returned to campus in January. That wasn't acceptable to me, as my trust of them was completely shattered. I, like most people, know when I'm being screwed.

That was my "issue with a professor." There's more surrounding this story, including the communication department's response. That's for later.

11.07.2004

The allegation: Vandalism

This is probably the one that puzzles me the most. But before we get into it, you need to know that 1) These accusations have never been brought to me. They've been mounted in secret to everyone around me; I know of them only because of the e-mails and a few friends. 2) I've never been given a chance to defend myself; the university has blocked my attempts to do so. 3) In the years since they've levied these allegations, irreprably damaging my reputation, they've made no move to file any criminal complaints. They haven't done so because they know they have no evidence -- just the mal intentions of a few embittered, jealous professors and students.

So, the vandalism. I have no real idea what was vandalized. Taylor has fought releasing any incident reports from their police, so I can't even confirm when the vandalism ocurred. My guess is they've realized that the incident reports reveal what Jan Pletcher probably already knew when she and others levied these allegations -- I was no where near campus when the alleged vandalism ocurred. But that's just my guess.

When I returned for J-term (having been in Washington, D.C. for a semester) I noticed that several nameplates were missing from the doors of professors in Rupp Communication Arts Center. This could be the *vandalism* they were referring to. However, the missing nameplates were already replaced with printed cards by the time I got there -- the FIRST DAY CAMPUS BUILDINGS WERE OPEN. At that time, I had no keys to access any building but my residence hall.

If this is the vandalism they were referring to, then Taylor should release the campus police reports so that I can once and for all prove that I didn't do it. If it's not, then I have a right to know what I'm accused of.

One person, my counselor (again in a display of disresepct for my privacy rights) told me that he had been told about vandalism to a campus building, but didn't know anymore. He brought this up in the context of all the things people in the administration were telling him. I asked him if they (adminstration) thought I did that, too (in addition to other things I'd been accused of). He said he didn't know. But, he said long after receiving Jan Pletcher's e-mail. He clearly did know. That was a crushing blow to what confidence I had left in him, too.

A safe place

I've been thinking about this one e-mail I have, that was sent to me last January when I graduated. The plan was that I would stay in the area and look for a job before heading off to grad school somewhere. I've been thinking about it because what she says is important, but I'm afraid to drag her into this anymore than she already has been. She's truly one of Taylor's few shinning stars -- someone that I see becoming VP there if not more. She was an undying support for me, I might not be here today if it wasn't for her. Through all of this, I've lost her friendship. That's a crushing blow to me; an ongoing pain much too real and raw to let myself deal with right now. It's not her fault -- she works for the school and even while I was still there, they put her in the awkward position of being the one they questioned the most about me. I won't forget what she's done for me, and I won't forget these words from one of the last e-mails I ever received from her:

"You are not alone through this. I was hoping you would just spill it all the other night. But you didn't and I didn't want to push you. I honestly have no idea what to think about all of this stuff. I hear so much...

I would like to tell you to stay around here, but I honestly don't know that that is the best plan for you. You will continue to be questioned and if anything else happens, you will be a target. I have to be honest with you about that. I can't say that I consider Taylor a safe place for you anymore." (emphasis mine)

I'm not releasing her name at this point, because I don't want to make things at the school any more difficult for her than I may have already. I will post a PDF of the e-mail as soon as I can.

Counseling with Jan Pletcher?

"The Counseling Center maintains strict standards of confidentiality. We will not release any records of your counseling or discuss your case with anyone, outside the counseling center, without your written permission." --the University Web site
If only that were true. Like a lot of students at Taylor, I took advantage of counseling -- it was free, convenient, non-judgemental, private. Well almost. The *legal* privilege that exists between a client and a counselor is sacrosanct; everywhere but at Taylor.

This is part of the text of a January 2003 e-mail (I'll have the PDF up ASAP), from Jan Pletcher, chair of the communication arts department and my third or fourth academic advisor. She sent it to Bob Neideck, my counselor and director of the counseling center:
"I spoke with ... today concerning some urgent issues with Justin. They suggested I contact you. These issues concern theft, vandalism, an issue with a professor, and possesion of a number of Taylor keys that have not been issued to him. Is there any time that we can talk?"
This raises several issues. I'll address her allegations later. The first problem is that I never told her I was in counseling. I never signed a release that allowed her to be notified that I was in counseling or that any information could be shared with her.

And, I don't know what was shared with her. The school won't tell me. Bob Neideck kept meticulous notes on all contact with me and others who asked about me, but the University has ignored two request to have the records released to me (despite their legal obligation to do so).

More frightening, is that when she wanted information about me, she turned immediately to my counselor. Move this outside of the context of the university and it would be unexecusable. But to her, it was no problem to violate my privacy rights to further her own agenda, what ever that was. This is indicative of the climate of Taylor University -- one that doesn't repsect its student's rights.

In response to learning this and a host of other things, Taylor's lawyer said: ""No one ... has taken any action to harm you."