What utter bullshit. I'll explain why below. First, and most recently, this story on faculty salaries is a good example. Near the bottom, we get this tripe (sorry for its length, this is how my local paper ran it online):
Michelle Garfield Cook, UGA’s associate provost for institutional diversity, defended the ERS study in an email.Oh Hollander, you say, this is just one case, so stop making a big deal out of nothing. A couple of days earlier, more and similar tripe in this story. Sorry, again this is how the paper has it online. It doesn't say it's an email, but it certainly reads like one:
“The university selected an independent consulting firm with more than 30 years of experience working with universities. Using a qualified, third-party consultant prevents potential conflicts of interest,” she wrote. “ERS Group applies an industry-standard methodology and has prepared pay equity studies at research institutions including Stanford University, Virginia Tech, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University and the University of Kentucky. The study took into account factors that legitimately impact compensation, including academic discipline and rank as well as tenure status. Other factors that legitimately impact compensation include education level, work experience and administrative assignments, among other factors. The university is committed to gender equity and intends to review faculty salaries on a regular basis, at least every five years.”
Karri Hobson-Pape, UGA’s vice president for markeint and communications, had this comment on the pay numbers:It's a basic journalism rule that you don't give sources the questions in advance. That's what an email does, gives academic bureaucrats the questions in advance, allows them to craft meaningless, stiff, bullshit responses, and there's then no opportunity for a follow-up question to point or quiz them on inconsistencies or to challenge the statements.
“The trends you note are simply due to the recession period when our longer-term UGA faculty members could not receive merit raises,” she wrote in an email. “This is a challenge we are now addressing through three consecutive annual faculty raises generously permitted through the Board of Regents. In addition, we are also now in a position to hire incoming faculty at more competitive market rates. President Morehead and Provost Whitten share a strong commitment to increasing faculty salaries; it has been and will continue to be one of their top priorities.”
It's a PR flak's wet dream. It's a journalist's nightmare. And the public loses in the process.
So either UGA has decided its people cannot handle telephone or face-to-face conversations, or the local paper is not willing to challenge the administrators. Here's how I would handle this. I'd have a sit-down with the VP of Whatever and explain this is unacceptable, that either you respond to questions in a live setting or we'll simply run the stories without your carefully crafted crap, because we're not gonna put up with this bullshit email thing. And I'd put in every story that the university refused to respond to questions unless provided in advance. I'd put it in a friggin box. In bold face. Like this.
Yeah, that's how I'd handle it.