CSUSM administration must change hush-hush culture


Courtesy of Pexels

Questioning the alleged misconduct of a CSUSM employee.

CSUSM has built a hush- hush culture to deal with controversies and scandals.

The men and women of the Cougar Chronicle practice ethical journalism. What have we to fear so long as we report the truth?

Speaking of truth, most of what may be deemed as our more “risky” stories about CSUSM were written based on facts distributed by the university Office of Communications. Recent examples include the spotlight on a CSU audit of the Extended Learning Dean Michael Schroder, as well as the reporting of a video of a sting purported to be related to a university investigation into a campus employee who allegedly preyed on someone posing as a minor.

There is a commonality among university-related stories put out by both us and other media outlets: the official university statement regarding the occurrences always remains a rocksolid one of neutrality.

In other words, like most companies trying to save face after an embarrassment, I believe CSUSM promotes a hush-hush mentality. To avoid the fallout otherwise, however, maybe the university is actually choosing the lesser of two evils by making a neutral statement with a promise to act immediately after a formal investigation is the norm. By appearing to remain competent and in control, they essentially save their credibility and trust- worthiness while avoiding immediately throwing the accused under the proverbial bus pending a formal investigation.

After doing some digging around, I found the university didn’t always do things this way in the not-too-distant past. The university has dealt several times with reports of rape and misconduct related to members of the campus community. They ranged from alerts and campus notifications advising that the community be on guard, to full blown lawsuits and arrests. A series of rape allegations which occurred on-campus at The Quad and the University Village Apartments (UVA) were reported in 2014. Allegations of rape from 2015 at The Quad, 2016 during a study- abroad in Germany between an accused current CSUSM student and a student from another CSU campus and in 2017 at Parking Lot B between a female student and a man she chatted with online all provide further concern.

Of these, only the 2017 Parking Lot B incident received a formal post that’s still accessible online, warning the campus about known predator activity on-campus. In fact, the second allegation regarding study abroad rape allegations is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the accused student, the results of which are not clear if not still pending litigation. Absent from all of the above, without fail, is either a consistent lack of any reporting of the facts by the University Communications Department, or a consistent lack of relevant updates as they became available. Indeed, the majority of the details above came from non-campus news reports and those of our own Cougar Chronicle.

Perhaps the incident that made the university take this stance was the blow back that CSUSM received following the actions of individual-rights-watchdogs theFIRE.org and the ACLU of San Diego back in 2011. According to an article on theFIRE.org, CSUSM was attempting in 2011 to discourage the publication of controversial satire newspaper The Koala by sending several students, suspected of being staff writers for the Koala, notifications of disciplinary actions. Both theFIRE.org and the ACLU responded by notifying the university administration their investigative actions were encroaching on the constitutionally-given freedom of speech right of the supposed Koala staff members. The end result of the trade-off was the university backing down on the investigation.

The small slice of investigative journalism detailed in this article suggests that CSUSM does indeed promote a hush-hush mentality and culture. So I implore you: look up the evidence yourself and form your own opinions of your university, Cougars. But as for me, I dare to question the reserved and closeted nature of the university, and instead promote openness, integrity and honesty. If the university wishes to keep the trust of students in times of turbulence and controversy, then the current regime cannot and must not be maintained. We must question this dangerous status-quo of silence and call for change.