Nearly a month ago, I finished a whirlwind semester as editor-in-chief of the Indiana Daily Student. It was an incredible experience, mostly due to the hard work of the most dedicated collegiate journalists in the country.
I’ve tried to pick out some highlights from the semester to share here on the blog. Even the best of the best is a long list, so here goes.
1. Investigations: Diversity, international students, greek life
I’m so proud of the efforts of the revived investigations team, led by Katie Mettler, which cranked out six stories, more than I ever expected.
They started with a look at diversity at IU.
In May 2006, the Board of Trustees endorsed a plan to double minority enrollment by fall 2013. At the time, minorities made up 10.2 percent of the Bloomington student population.
With the deadline nearing, the University is far from meeting its goal. This semester, the student population is composed of 14.4 percent minority students, students who identify as Hispanic, African American, Asian American, American Indian, Pacific Islander, or two or more races.
The board continues to aim for the goal of doubling minority enrollment, William Cast, chair of the Board of Trustees, said. But as they analyze each year’s reports, board members realize it is next to impossible to accomplish the goal by next year.
The next time we heard from them was in a four-day, eight-story series about challenges faced by the 6,015 international students at IU-Bloomington. The series, titled “Shortchanged” also included a special website, videos, interactive graphics and photo galleries, available at idsnews.com/shortchanged.
Expanding diversity is the driving force behind international recruiting at IU. It’s a balancing act between what is ideal what is fiscally possible. With finite resources, the University has moved away from personalized care for international students and toward a numbers race.
When students come to IU from around the world, they encounter a clash of cultures. Communication can be a daily struggle, and it takes effort to understand American customs. Yet despite the challenges, many students strive to build community far from home.
More than 75 percent of international students at IU come from non-English speaking countries. Despite being told they’re proficient by official University tests, some are still not prepared to learn in English when they arrive on campus.
The University advocates for a diverse international experience, admitting more and more international students every year. Meanwhile, many in the international community are being placed into overflow lounges and also dealing with the eviction from a place they used to call home, the Leo R. Dowling International Center.
At the end of the semester, the team dissected the departure from campus of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, which the IDS reported on last semester and about which many rumors had been flying.
Zeta Beta Tau’s disciplinary problems began in April 2010 when a woman was transported to the hospital after consuming alcohol at a fraternity function.
Citations for “uncontrolled distribution of hard liquor” and “drinking games” followed, according to University documents, and the fraternity went through periods of disciplinary probation and social restrictions through 2012.
But in September, allegations of sexual assault surfaced. Police went to the fraternity’s house on the North Jordan extension and seized security footage, sophomore and former ZBT Vice President Chad Silver said.
2. Journalism merger: News hits close to home
We knew further details about the merger of the School of Journalism and the departments of Telecommunications and Communication and Culture would break this spring. We followed the story closely from early on, and, when it became clear a new, merged communication school would be housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, we threw a little weight around, disclosed our conflict of interest and then stepped back to report the news. Managing Editor Matthew Glowicki led the reporting, examining the issues with a fair eye.
Communication education at IU could undergo a massive overhaul if a proposal currently on the provost’s desk is approved by the Board of Trustees later this semester.
The proposal, prepared by a faculty committee, provides for the merging of the IU School of Journalism, Department of Telecommunications and Department of Communication and Culture. According to the proposal, cinema and media studies, communications and public culture, journalism, telecommunications and emergent media arts could be part of a new school, tentatively titled the School of Communication, Media and Journalism.
Few specifics have emerged concerning the proposed merger involving the IU School of Journalism and two other academic departments.
No definite academic or administrative structure is finalized. Nor are the futures of IU Student Media, various units’ distinct honors programs or future financial and infrastructural support clear.
The merger itself is not a done deal, as it must still go before the Board of Trustees and President Michael McRobbie.
A diminished school, particularly one caught in the bureaucracy and revenue sharing model of the College of Arts and Sciences, would suffer.
That’s why we’ve dedicated so much attention to reporting this story: Any decision that harms the School of Journalism also runs the risk of harming IU Student Media.
Further, it is part of a campus-wide conversation affecting us all.
3. Sexual assault
We emphasized an important conversation on college campuses around the country, carrying on a policy started in the fall of running crime stories about rape above the fold on the front page. But we had two especially important, closer looks at rape in Bloomington.
The first challenged Indiana state law, which does not define male-on-male rape as rape.
Indiana law does not constitute sexual assault as rape unless it is between members of opposite sex. However, there is deviate conduct, “a person who knowingly or intentionally causes another person to perform or submit to deviate sexual conduct.”
Investigators and prosecutors typically file for criminal deviate conduct when an accused person makes forced sexual contact through means of anal penetration, oral penetration or penetration with an object without the victim’s consent or if the victim is in a state in which they cannot grant permission.
Prosecutors, psychologists and advocacy leaders have made it clear that a change is necessary — some even calling the current code “archaic.”
The next day, the editorial board weighed in.
The need for two different classifications — rape as a heterosexual crime and criminal deviate conduct as a homosexual crime — reflects how deeply ingrained homophobia is in our society. Simply defining deviate sexual contact as any nonconsensual act involving … Indiana is making it clear that it thinks homosexual intercourse is strange, scary, disgusting and an abomination.
The second questioned a campus culture in which rape victims are blamed for somehow causing rape.
Drunk sluts. Loose morals. Not fighting hard enough. Staying out too late. Wearing short skirts. It’s called “victim blaming.”
IU Health Center counselor Debbie Melloan has worked with sexual assault victims at Counseling and Psychological Services for 23 years. Despite the University’s sexual assault outreach and prevention programs, IU students don’t seem to engage in victim blaming much less than the general population, she said.
Victim blaming, Melloan said, obscures one key point: Sexual assaults happen because a perpetrator decides to disregard consent and do what he or she wants.
4. Basketball: High hopes to ‘Heartbreak’
The most popular story of the semester was IU’s No. 1-ranked basketball team. The season ended too early in a Sweet Sixteen loss to Syracuse, but we covered it from beginning to end. Basketball reporters Max McCombs and Nathan Brown, columnist Michael Norman and photographers Steph Langan and Steph Aaronson deserve major kudos for their effort.
A few highlights:
History did not repeat itself Thursday evening, at least not the history IU wanted.
There was no last-minute jumper to defeat Syracuse like in 1987.
There was no Sweet Sixteen comeback from a double-digit deficit as there was in 2002 against Duke.
There will be no sixth banner. Not this year.
IU’s road wasn’t supposed to end like this.
The journey that started with a preseason No. 1 ranking was supposed to be on the yellow brick road leading all the way to the wonderful land of the Final Four.
The path wasn’t supposed to guide the Hoosiers right into an orange brick wall.
But it did, and now the 2012-13 IU men’s basketball season is over.
Maurice Creek stood on the sidelines with the rest of his teammates, his senior night still one year away.
Creek had entered the IU program and started all 12 of his first games as a Hoosier, but season-ending injuries had plagued his once-promising career, giving him another season to finish what he started.
Last year, Creek was left sitting on the bench as IU made it back to the “Big Dance” for the first time since 2008. But finally, after a slew of surgeries, days in rehab and missed games, Creek will have a chance Friday to take the court in his first NCAA Tournament game and get a taste of what he and his senior teammates had been working toward since their freshman season.
At the end of the season, the basketball reporters, sports editors and design team pulled together a really cool look back (click on it for a much larger view):
5. Chief Cash: Losing a legend
This spring, IU Police Chief Keith Cash died unexpectedly. A fixture of the community and dear friend of student journalists, Chief Cash was much loved on campus. He was honored by the IDS and IU Student Media in 2011 with the Trevor R. Brown award, which recognizes a member of the IU or Bloomington community who goes above and beyond to support the work of student journalists. We broke the story, but more importantly, we ran one of the most touching memorial stories I’ve ever read.
A group of officers filed past. The first held an American flag, folded into a triangle. The second carried the urn, embossed with the red-and-white IU emblem. Four officers followed behind them, one keeping time.
As they walked past, the hundreds of standing officers saluted.
In the back row, one officer removed his hat and bowed his head. His face crumpled as he began to cry.
This service was the final time they would salute IU Police Department Chief Keith Cash.
The photojournalism of Cash’s memorial service was also phenomenal. You can find the full gallery here.
6. Strike, trustees and two wild days on campus
It was scheduled in December, but we didn’t know what to expect from the two-day, on-campus strike during the April Board of Trustees meeting. We had coverage of faculty being told not to discuss the strike, noise demonstrations earlier in the semester and a convenient decision by the trustees to shorten their meeting to one day.
The forested path behind Woodburn Hall was silent except for the sound of the wind in the trees. Suddenly, the silence was ripped in half by the noise of protesters’ horns, frying pans, whistles and the booming bass of Wu Tang Clan.
“Fight back, not cut back,” they chanted over the music.
Activist group IU on Strike raised awareness of the strikes planned for April 11 and 12 in a noise demonstration that began behind Woodburn Hall on Monday at 2 p.m. Holding banners, pickets and boards, they marched up to 10th Street, down toward Wright Quad and across campus to the Provost’s office.
After activist group IU on Strike concluded their noise demonstration Tuesday with a parade through Provost Lauren Robel’s office, one of the strikers allegedly shoved executive secretary Karen Easter.
The group came to discuss their demands with the provost. While she was speaking with them, some members of the group allegedly broke into an internal office and threw fliers around the room and into Robel’s purse. In response, Robel issued an email statement Wednesday that both the Bloomington Faculty Council and IU Student Association endorsed.
When it came time for the strike, we deployed “Strike Team Six” and “Trustees Team Go” to report, photograph, write and edit. They came up with two top-notch strike stories (including late-breaking police action at 11 p.m.) and the strongest trustees coverage in the past few years.
The sound of drums mixed with the sound of chanting and chatter filled the air behind Woodburn Hall.
About 250 students, faculty and staff carrying signs and banners painted with slogans like “No debt bondage” and “Double the 4, we want more” assembled near the red clock. Those walking by slowed down to watch, some snapping photos or asking others what was happening.
On the sidewalk, some handed out flyers and pamphlets, asking those walking by, “Would you like some information?”
Right next to the clock tower, a small group of girls on stationary bikes, raising money for Bike To Uganda, looked around at the sudden crowd, as if unsure what to do or whether to continue.
One said, “This is bullshit.”
A dozen yards away, several tour groups headed towards the crowd, parents and prospective students trailing behind their guides. The next stop on their tour was Woodburn.
The strikers have left the building, but evidence of last week’s demonstration remains in Woodburn Hall.
A strike schedule is taped to a bulletin board in the first floor lobby. A red bandanna has been discarded below a tree from which a banner reading “We found debt in a hopeless place” hung Friday. The anarchy symbol and messages, such as “a strike never ends” and “strikes never die,” are marked in chalk on the steps outside the south entrance.
This sentiment that ‘it’s not over yet’ seems to be shared by many of the participants in Thursday and Friday’s demonstrations.
7. Jordan River Forum
This spring also saw the rebirth of the Jordan River Forum, a weekly page devoted entirely to letters to the editor and comments from readers on idsnews.com and via Twitter.
It was all part of a valiant effort on the part of opinion editors Drake Reed and Will Royal to localize our opinion pages and focus on issues that directly affect readers, as well as to create a forum where readers are encouraged to disagree with columns and editorials.
Best of all, I had the pleasure of editing some very fine pieces of journalism, the best of which are below:
The forgotten queen steps onto the empty stage.
She looks out across the cavernous hall of the IU Auditorium. It’s bigger than she remembered. She sees the rows of seats where her friends cheered for her. She feels the crown tilting on her head, hears the flashbulbs popping in her face, catching her surprise as she made history. She never expected to win.
The stage is so quiet now. She thinks back to the Ebony fashion tour that followed her coronation, the dinner with Dr. King. She thinks about the slurs people hurled at her, writing letters, calling her at the dorm. The way her own yearbook ignored her reign. The man pointing the gun.
So much pride and so much hate, all beginning under these lights.
The final score sounded impossible: 107- 2.
It was one of the most lopsided outcomes in the history of Indiana high school girls’ basketball. Bloomington High School South, a perennial contender, went into the game last December on a 7-game winning streak. Arlington Community, a much smaller Indianapolis school that had struggled for years against academic woes and student flight, had only won one game in two seasons.
Ebony Jackson, the losing team’s coach, played so well for the Arlington Golden Knights that she was named an Indiana Girls’ Basketball All-Star. As she watched her team go down against BHHS, the game seemed to play out in fast-forward. Afterward, she told a reporter the way the opposing coach handled the game wasn’t okay.
SOUTH BEND — Patricia Kobalski was watching TV late Sunday afternoon when a plane dropped from the crisp March sky and plunged into her living room.
The private jet, a Hawker Beechcraft 390, burst through a corner of the house and crashed to a stop just feet from her 6-year-old son Dominick, who was sitting at the kitchen table.
“Mom!” he cried out.
Kobalski had lived in the mauve colored one-story house at 1614 N. Iowa St. for more than 20 years. She said she was so accustomed to the regional airport next door, the drone of the planes coming and going, that she didn’t even notice the failing jet’s roaring engine as it plummeted toward her home.
At about 4:25 p.m. Sunday, a small private jet carrying four passengers careened out of control, apparently due to mechanical failure. The crash killed two people and hospitalized three others.
Bill Boyd takes in the changes as he walks past piles of his mangled trees. His dust-crusted brown boots reacquaint themselves with the land he once openly walked and his cattle freely roamed.
He and his wife, Jan, can’t go on their property on this unseasonably warm, October day. A court order threatens legal action if they trespass, they say.
That land now belongs to the state. Part of the Boyds’ land in Bloomfield, Ind., sits in the path of constructing Interstate 69, which will connect Indianapolis to Evansville.
It’s been under construction since 2008, though Section 4 of the project, where the Boyds reside, broke ground in April 2012, pushing building forward into Greene County and into the Boyds’ backyard.
It’s a process the Boyds say has been marked by negligence by the Indiana Department of Transportation. INDOT, they say, has disregarded state laws in an infuriating push to complete the project, skipping standard procedures.
After three years at IU, she was going to drop out.
In May 2012, the end of her junior year, her parents said they weren’t paying for school anymore.
They found out she had a girlfriend.
The 21-year-old spent the summer figuring out how to support herself.
“I met with a counselor who told me to drop out of school based on my financial situation,” she said. “I went to class those first few weeks without knowing if I was going to be able to pay for them.”
Come August, unpaid bills began piling up. Her dream of getting into law school and becoming a child advocate would be just that — a dream.
For the student who came out, the role of scholarship money was more than a financial boost. It was hope.
And there you have it. A semester of fantastic journalism boiled down to the world’s longest blog post.