Disturbing trends in campus affairs

The following is in response to the articles ‘AASA office looks to the future’ and ‘Impeachments become private’ in the April 14 issue of The Northerner, as well as in response to antecedent articles by the same:

It is my purpose to address, in brief, some disturbing trends in campus affairs at NKU, which are local incidents of greater trends in our society. As a student, a sense of responsibility for mounting a counteroffensive to these tendencies motivates me to address concerns. It is my intention to be respectful – in the sense of treating individuals fairly, and in regard to the truth by not shrinking from sharp criticism.

Bureaucracies similar to those that administrate this campus are an everyday fact of life for most individuals in our modern society – for good or ill.

That said, it is necessary to point out some of the negative features of this type of organization that bear practical relevance to our situation here at NKU. Such institutions are profoundly authoritarian, and are largely unaccountable to the majority of those who are made to abide by their decisions.’ To draw a local parallel, and without taking a position on the dismissal of Michael Griffin and Blanche Pringle-Smith, consider the reaction of the administration to the rudiments of an investigation into the matter by an outside entity. The Northerner reports: ‘All requested documents relating to the grievances are being withheld and employees have been told that cooperating with The Northerner may affect the outcome of their grievances. The administration, including Simpson, continues to remain silent on the firings.”

And after all, why should the administration agree to cooperate with a relatively outside investigation? Such a hierarchical organization is structured so that Simpson is responsible not to the student body, but up a chain of increasingly insulated and therefore unaccountable and unelected officials.

Given this, they cannot be compelled to comply with those whom, in actuality, suffer the consequences of their decisions. The only investigation they will permit is an internal one, conducted by their own appointees, with a possible payout at the end to minimize bad PR – reinforcing the idea that the administration can reduce any dispute over its conduct to self-arbitration. In other words, it will permit itself to be audited by no authority but its own.’

This is not a comment on Simpson or Dean of Students Jeff Waple, but rather a statement of institutional fact. Their personal characteristics, to this argument, are irrelevant. Institutional necessity dictates that the administration close ranks.

More disturbing, the Student Government Association appears determined to follow the example set by the university administration. Possibly in reaction to the very public impeachment proceedings this year, The Northerner reported that certain senators in SGA believed ‘impeachments should be public unless the broadcasting of personal issues might impact the student’s reputation on campus.’

Unfortunately, in an open society, such a proposition undermines the possibility of anything close to a functional democracy. The broad terminology of this proposition ensures that it could be used to suppress just about anything, similar to controversial libel legislation in the United Kingdom.’

Members of the SGA are public figures insofar as they have chosen to publicly represent (at least in name) the student body, and, as such, anything relevant to their performance in said role, including much of what could be included under the definition of ‘personal,’ is a matter of public import. If they can be brought up for impeachment for it, it’s relevant to the student body. Whether the intent of the proposition is to overtly marginalize the student body from decision-making, or is merely a somewhat naïve measure to protect the individuals involved, the consequence remains that the student body will end up with yet another potential barrier to effective participation in campus affairs.

To conclude, the preceding is but a brief and superficial response to some of the issues that face the campus today, but hopefully provides a rough preliminary sketch of the overarching concepts that guide many of the actors involved. It is, of course, my hope that others will join me in opposing the more authoritarian elements active in campus politics, as well as in’ society at large.’

Aaron Sprinkles
Junior, History major