Let’s talk about communication

By Editor-in-Chief

At the bottom of this page, readers will see that The Chronicle has issued a correction for its Oct. 6 article “College reports leaders’ pay.”

The Chronicle erroneously stated that Annice Kelly, former vice president of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, and Steven Kapelke, former provost and senior vice president, had filed wrongful terminations suits against the college and had recently reached a settlement. 

Regrettably, The Chronicle mixed up the circumstances surrounding Kelly and Kapelke’s departures from the college with those of two other former employees, Mike DeSalle, former vice president  of Finance and chief financial officer, and Zafra Lerman, former professor and head of the Institute for Science Education. 

The Chronicle apologizes for the error. We strive to emulate the best in collegiate journalism, but our staff is human, and sometimes inaccuracies make it to print. 

While The Chronicle acknowledges the error, it is one that could have just as easily been avoided had the college promptly responded to our inquiries regarding the matter. On a number of occasions, The Chronicle reached out to Anne-Marie St. Germaine, interim vice president of Communications & Marketing, and Steve Kauffman, senior director of public relations.

Journalists and advisers also met with St. Germaine and Kauffman and representatives from the controller’s office prior to press time. We made clear our questions regarding Kelly and Kapelke and were told that we would receive a follow-up message regarding our questions, but the message never came. We also emailed and called Kauffman the day we sent the issue to press. We were told that he was out of his office.

We received the same lack of response to many of our questions, in particular our inquiry into President Kwang-Wu Kim’s salary. 

As journalists, we at The Chronicle are often told, “No comment,” or “No, we will not disclose those figures,” by our sources. Receiving a “No comment” is infinitely better than receiving no response at all. That is part of the reason journalists make mistakes.

The Chronicle had a similar communication problem last year with the same highest-paid story. It is a sensitive topic, especially considering the financial straits the college is facing. 

Communication between The Chronicle and administrators has improved since President Kwang-Wu Kim has taken office. It is a trend we have seen reflected with several of the new administrative hires, the standout being Stan Wearden, senior vice president and provost. 

But there is always room for improvement, especially in how the college’s communications office deals with the media. 

Though there has been an improvement, too often our staff is met with unanswered questions or, more infuriatingly, no response at all. If we must uphold the duties of our profession, I would hope that expectation would extend to other members of the college. 

As the college drafts its Strategic Plan and prioritizes its laundry list of ailments, I hope that improving communications practices is amongst them. While better communication would greatly benefit The Chronicle, it also has the ability to positively impact the college. 

It is no secret that The Chronicle has been vocal on the current administration’s aim to be transparent. It has not been as transparent as it needs to be. Improving the communications process between the administration and The Chronicle—and the students, faculty and staff, too—can go a long way to making the goal of openness a reality.