Kudos to the staff of The Mountain Echo for an impressive piece of investigative journalism. Roger Mudd, who was my commencement speaker in 1992, would be proud. Prior to coming to speak at commencement, Mudd requested a copy of every issue of The Mountain Echo printed that year be sent to him. His speech focused on the stories we covered and how important a student press is.
After reading The Mountain Echo article, Ryan’s editorial, The Washington Post article, President Newman’s editorial and Trustee Chairman Coyne’s email to the faculty, staff and alumni, several things are apparent. President Newman obviously failed Marketing 101. According to the message boards on The Washington Post, many do not believe Newman’s explanation about his new “retention” program. He has lost prospective students. And he has managed to embarrass himself and the university on a national level.
As a “freshman” president he has shown he can’t cut it. He has apparently alienated both his administrative team and members of the faculty. The board needs to stop coddling him and get rid of him, just as he would do to struggling 20-25 freshmen he wanted to see leave campus by Sept. 25, 2015. Maybe some community college can use an MBA with no sense of marketing.
Mr. Coyne seems to be indecisive in responding to the article making the AP wire. First he issues a vague threat of potential legal liability to the student staff for printing “confidential emails.” Mr. Coyne needs to be educated that emails are not considered to be private by anyone. Then he makes the accusation that a group of faculty actually wrote The Mountain Echo article which is laughable. Unless things have changed drastically in the Echo office since I was an editor there, there is no way the Echo staff would allow a group of faculty members to write such a piece and then put a student’s byline on it.
Mr. Newman and Mr. Coyne both had several weeks to sit down and speak with Echo staff regarding the article. They chose not to and were apparently dismissive of its contents until it hit the national press. Mr. Coyne didn’t even think it was important enough to inform the Mountain Echo staff that the board was conducting a forensic investigation into what the reporters had discovered. Instead, he waited until Friday, Jan. 22, to issue a statement to faculty, staff and alumni in a weak attempt to CYA.
Mr. Newman submitted what he thought was a compelling explanation to The Washington Post last Tuesday, Jan. 19, with one exception. He never did address his desire to use a survey in an unethical manner. Several commenters mentioned this on the Post’s message board.
The administration and faculty of Mount St. Mary’s should hold a meeting as soon as possible and issue a vote of no confidence against President Newman, Chairman Coyne and the rest of the board who are defending Newman. Obviously the problem the Mount is experiencing lies directly with the board and Mr. Newman.
Whatever problems Mount St. Mary’s has with attracting students, Newman’s retention plan by “culling” students within six weeks of starting their college career isn’t the solution.
Freshman year is a year of transition where you are stretched in many different ways. Yes some will struggle, but no freshman should arrive on campus worried they will be asked to leave within six weeks because they haven’t transitioned fast enough to improve retention rates.
When I arrived on campus as a freshman in 1988, Mount St. Mary’s was featured in The Chronicle of Higher Learning for its innovative Freshman Core program. Today my mother wouldn’t enroll a dog there. It is sad to see my alma mater go downhill in this manner.
Lauren R. Zeugner
MSM Class of 1992