CSU ban on reporters is a brief one

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • April 13, 2009 @ 7:00 AM

Officials at Chicago State University have backed away from a brief attempt to to ban reporters from  this week's campus visits by two finalists for the school president's job.

CSU had previously supplied the schedule for each day-long visit to the Daily News and posted the same schedule on its Web site. Spokeswoman Patricia Arnold told the Daily News last week that all events on both days were open to the media. The school had also issued a statement pledging the search process would be “completely transparent.”

But in an e-mail yesterday afternoon, Arnold wrote that “the Chicago State University Board of Trustees is conducting all meetings with the candidates in executive session, including their visits on Monday and Tuesday.”

When the Daily News challenged CSU and suggested such a move would violate the state’s Open Meetings Act, the university reversed course.

“After relating your concerns to Dr. Finney, he has asked me to advise you that journalists may cover the candidates’ visits to campus,” Arnold wrote in an e-mail, referring to Rev. Leon Finney, the chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees.

Carol Adams, the secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, and Wayne Watson, the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, are the two finalists to be CSU’s next president. During the visits, each will meet with faculty, student groups and administrators, and participate in community forums.

The search process has drawn criticism from some faculty and students on campus, with both groups launching blogs in recent weeks detailing their concerns.

A petition circulated among students last week calling for interim president Frank Pogue to remain in office while a new and more public search process is started has garnered about 600 signatures so far, says student Elise Burks.

“There is a big uproar on campus about what’s happening,” she says.

Open government advocates question CSU's move to put candidate meetings under wraps.

“Chicago State University, which has suffered in its public image by failing to have open and transparent processes, would be well served to open up something such as its presidential candidates forums,” says Laurence Msall, the executive director of the Civic Federation, a government watchdog group.

Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, says CSU’s initial move raised First Amendment issues as well, since many of the events are open to all members of the campus community.

“They don’t get to decide, everyone in the public gets to come but not the media,” Dalglish says. “They don’t get to do that. Will they try it? Yeah, boneheaded public officials will try to pull that crap.”

Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.

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ARAMIS GRANT , 04-21-2009

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