EDITORIAL: The forgotten accolade 8

By Huntingtonian Editorial Staff

What happened to “honoring his legacy?”

One of the central issues revolving around the budget cuts and transition in administration last year was the stepping down of Norris Friesen, Ph.D., from the position of Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. He is now listed in the Huntington.edu website as the Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Professor of German.

When the transition with Friesen was announced, there was a proposal to rename the Joe Mertz Center after Friesen.

In an email to the campus Dec. 6, 2011, President G. Blair Dowden, Ed.D., said, “to honor Dr. Friesen for his 26-year ongoing legacy on our campus, in January I will propose to the Board of Trustees that we rename the JMC as the ‘Friesen Center for Volunteer Service.’ I think this will be a very fitting tribute to a man who has always put others’ needs ahead of his own.”

It has been over a year since that email announcement. There has been no public update to the status of this project.

When recently asked about the name change process, the president’s office offered this response in an email reply: “At this time, Dr. Dowden does not have anything to report regarding the name change of the JMC. Thank you for your inquiry.”
If the name change isn’t going to happen, that is fine. The JMC has established a respected name for themselves as it is. The students and campus community, however, deserve more transparency with what has transpired in the last year.

Either something happened — such as the board of trustees not approving the proposal — or perhaps the name change was never a serious suggestion in the first place, which is a whole different issue.

Whatever the status, please just let us know. While it may seem petty in this circumstance, it is a representative microcosm of why some people have expressed dissatisfaction toward the administration.

Inactions like this cause people to suspect that there is more behind everything announced by the administration than meets the eye.

A little bit of transparency in minor issues like this would be beneficial for both sides.

The Huntingtonian Editors. Top row, left to right: Alex Hoffman, Brad Barber, Jared Huhta, Josh Lanphier. Bottom row, left to right: Laura Good, Sara Marshall, Jessi Emmert, Rachel Batdorff. (Photo by Mike Ayers)

8 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: The forgotten accolade

  1. Reply Anonymous Mar 21,2013 8:26 pm

    As I read this latest issue of the Huntingtonian, I was shocked to see a couple components that were very degrading to Huntington University.

    First of all, I believe that this article was disrespectful to our school’s administration. Is it wrong that the school did not rename the JMC like they said they would? Yes I believe so; I have a lot of respect for Norrie Friesen, he has done a lot of good for the HU community, and I feel terrible about what happened to him last year. However, was it really necessary for a degrading article to be published about our school’s administration? I know tour guides that like to tell perspective students about the Huntingtonian and encourage them to pick up a copy and read it, what would a perspective student and their parents think when they picked up the newspaper and saw this article?

    I believe that there were different and better ways that this problem could have been approached if you really want to see this through. Have you considered talking to our student Senate about the problem? They have a close relationship with our President and can possibly bring this topic up in discussion with him. Dr. Dowden cares about students and values our opinions, I don’t think that he would have held question and answer sessions during the uproar over the budget cuts if he didn’t. What about talking with Grace, the head of JMC, to find out whether or not the JMC is in the process of receiving a name change? I understand your frustration with not being kept in the loop about the process of this name change, but there are better ways then publishing this story to get the student population fired up about this which would demand a response from our administration. There is definitely a time and place for that, but I believe that this is only when those in authority are being unreasonable and unfair which I don’t see happening in this situation. Further inquiries should have been made to Senate and JMC before blasting our administration in the school newspaper.

    I was also disappointed to see a comic in the opinion section that is pretty much bashing our school drinking policy. Whether or not it is right or wrong is a completely different issue, but the fact of the matter is that you agreed to it when you choose to come to school here. I don’t think that you intentionally meant this as a shot against our school, but again it was not a necessary addition to the Huntingtonian.

    I have talked to other HU students about this and they agree with my opinion.

    I just would like it to be known that I have nothing against the Huntingtonian; I am a consistent reader and I appreciate the hard work that you put into each edition. You guys do a great job with your stories. However, I am asking that you be mindful of the messages that you are sending through the content that you include in future editions.

  2. Reply Sarah Lewis Mar 22,2013 12:18 am

    It’s evident that the above “anonymous” commenter has no real grasp on the concept of what journalism is. The Huntingtonian, whatever it has printed as of late, does not exist for the purpose of making the university look good. They have salaried employees and marketing campaigns to do that, not piddly student publications.

    If anything, tour guides should be directing prospective (not perspective)students to the paper as an example of the fruits of a liberal arts education at work. Look- students who not only report the news, but analyze it! Granted, the staff could have followed up again with the president (not JMC, since the name change would come from higher up/admins) and investigated further before screaming for “transparency,” but “disrespectful” doesn’t really matter. It’s an opinion. Duh.

    The administration has the capability of responding to the editorial at any time, and the staff is exercising… what’s that called again? Oh yeah, freedom of the press. The staff didn’t print anything libelous against the administration, nor did they “blast” the JMC. A campus community has every right to voice their concerns regarding transparency from their administration, especially if that administration’s mission is to “develop in students a commitment to scholarship that is persistent in its pursuit of truth and sensitive to the concerns of the Christian church, the scholarly and educational community, and the world at large.” So they pursue the truth and want to hold the administration accountable to its own mission as well as fulfill it themselves, and you scold them like schoolchildren?

    I wonder if you read (though I doubt it) any of the rest of this month’s issue of The Huntingtonian. It was full of stories that make the institution look successful and positive- the W3 video, Peoria update, presidental search and Ictus, among others. It was a PR professional’s playground. Some have said this is the tamest year for the Huntingtonian yet.

    As for Mr. Johnson’s comic regarding alcohol, he didn’t poke fun at HU’s drinking policy…at all. He’s exposing the irony that some Christians believe alcohol is diabolical, but their own Savior drank.

    You have every right (oh look, there’s that pesky first amendment again) to disagree with an editorial or a comic that you obviously misunderstood, but your wish for more intentionally positive content in the paper will most likely (and should)be ignored.

    Students on staff for the Huntingtonian: I would like to echo the request of the close-minded coward that commented before me. Please be mindful of the messages that you send in the content that you choose to include in future editions. Hold to the duty you have to your peers to pursue and report the truth, regardless of simpering sycophants that would rather you print press releases. Play hardball.

    And to the above Anonymous, unless a stooge commissioned to curb the criticisms of the students against the administration, your diagnosis of degradation is pathetic. They don’t need the Huntingtonian’s help- they degrade the institution all on their own.

  3. Reply Daniel Binkoski Mar 22,2013 11:23 am

    First and foremost, thank you for bringing this issue up. I don’t think it was anyone’s desire for it to be forgotten, and I think it is part of the Huntingtonian’s job to remind the campus of the ideas that have been proposed, and to ask what happened to them. A number of administrators have noted your diligence in the past, and are impressed and appreciative of it. As to the issue of the JMC name change, I can tell you that it has not been forgotten, nor has it been swept under the rug. Although I am not at liberty to say anything at the moment, I can promise you that the issue is being explored. I know that the administration will share the status of the proposed name change when they feel the timing is right. Thanks again for bringing this up! It is always good to see other students engaged with what is happening at our university.

  4. Reply Kris Burgess Mar 23,2013 10:44 am

    To the Anonymous commenter,

    First, I believe that it is a bit disingenuous to hide behind anonymity when posting something of this nature. Let people know you stand for something; this concept is mostly what the Huntingtonian reflects. If you are not willing to criticize whilst putting a face to your criticism, you should most likely just keep your comments to yourself, that’s just my opinion.

    As to the “degrading” nature of the Huntingtonian,

    This is the same nonsense that was brought up with the art exhibit being closed down a few years ago. Why should a newspaper, at the HIGHER-EDUCATION level, bow down to lower standards of Christian political correctness for the purpose of supporting the admissions’ PR spin ops? It should not. The Huntingtonian, although I don’t always agree with its stances, has been a voice of reason for a lot of the issues that come across the HU campus. If something is true, and also happens to be negative and makes one feel uncomfortable, is this thing necessarily degrading? Not at all. Besides, I am not sure how much you have experienced in the sense of journalism, but this is HARDLY a “degrading” or “disrespectful” piece. It seems you are advocating for students to not take concerns directly to the president. Is this what you believe? Censoring the masses?

    To briefly address your point about Dowden’s “care” about “students and values,”

    For one, I cannot possibly know if you even went to the student Q&A sessions that he attended, because, oh wait, I don’t know who you are. But as for myself, I went to the first of the Q&As. At this Q&A, when Dowden was faced with tough questions, he could never give out a clear answer. I have the recording if you want me to send it to you, but that would require you to break your anonymity. Dowden is great at answering softball questions and saying those fluffy things people like to hear in order to get back on their way. You know, the kind of things that people just want to hear so they know everything is going to be alright? Just because Dowden came to some Q&As he automatically cares about students and values? If that is all you need to know that someone cares about you, well, You and I have very different definitions of the word “care,” assuming you are a student that is.

    I honestly cannot comment on the comic because I have not seen it, but if I had to guess, it’s not THAT bad. The Huntingtonian can’t publish things that are overly offensive, at least that’s what I have been told. The problem we may have here is your, person Anonymous, definition of offensive. Sometimes, the HU bubble should be broken and real-world applications and commentaries should be let in, or HU would be not achieving its mission to develop in students a commitment to “scholarship that is persistent in its pursuit of truth and sensitive to the concerns of the Christian church, the scholarly and educational community, and the world at large.” For one, the Christian church encompasses SO MANY people that it would hardly constitute your sense or even HU’s sense of principles. Not to mention the “world at large” is included in that part. Humor is a natural part of being a human being. And although I don’t always agree with everyone’s humor, I doubt that the comic is overly offensive, in light of the Huntingtonian’s history of comic presentations.

    To anonymous, I hope that the Huntingtonian completely disregards your request. Why? Because it is 100% unfounded. Yes, I completely disagree with you, and resonate with parts of Sarah’s response.

    To Daniel, although it is probably much appreciated by many, your response lacks any substance. Saying that something has not been swept under the rug does not make the case automatically so. Until I see a statement from the admin. about the issue, I’m not budging in how I feel about it. Further, what needs to be explored about the issue? Didn’t Dowden himself say that it would happen? Shows how much integrity was attached to that statement I guess.

    Huntingtonian, keep up the great work! This article was, if anything negative, too soft. I know that you all are held back by the standards set for you, but keep pushing the envelope. Myself and others appreciate your courage! #KeepOnFighting

  5. Reply Jared Murray Mar 25,2013 7:50 pm

    I’m not going to say anything to Anonymous that hasn’t already been rightly said by Sarah and Kris, although perhaps a bit more harshly than necessary.

    However, I do want to address this consistent need by many within the Church (and Huntington University community) to denounce “degrading” language when someone gives a dissenting opinion. We must be careful to not assume so quickly when engaging another’s differing viewpoint that it is “degrading”. That has tended to be the case in most instances I’ve experienced; when one person raises legitimate questions, and then is immediately labeled a rabble-rouser or pot-stirrer. I’m sure your intentions are absolutely noble here, Anonymous, and I applaud you for sharing them. In fact, that’s exactly the point of this forum: to share your opinions, dissenting or not. But please take notice of your perhaps overeagerness to jump to such a negative conclusion regarding this piece written in an editorial column. The questions raised here are legitimate, as evidenced by Daniel Binkowski’s response as a member of the institution (representing the students, obviously) in question.

    In that same regard, I would also echo these sentiments towards Kris in relation to Daniel’s response. While I also agree that it’s a bit of a pat answer, I suspect that’s honestly the only one he can give, as well as anyone else intimately involved in the situation.

    Ultimately, I would love to see this name-change take place, and I’m also a little saddened that it’s stalled out in this manner, with little to no feedback from the administration as to why. However, as tends to be the case with many “controversies” at HU, this is perhaps making a mountain out of a molehill. Does it need to be addressed? Yes, please address it. Is it worthy of our excoriation? Hardly.

  6. Reply Kris Burgess Apr 1,2013 9:03 pm

    Jared,

    I can understand where you are coming from. In relation to what you are saying, I have found that sometimes it takes being harsh to get persons attention. I, like many others, am tired of administrative powers that be, executive officers, and persons of power being able to get away with vague responses without substance. I applaud Daniel for taking time to respond, but would VERY MUCH prefer that, you Daniel, actually say something more when you say something. All that to say, Jared, I agree that dissent is often too quickly treated as rabble-rousing. With regard to your suspicion that Daniel is giving us the “only” answer he can, I believe, as evidenced in his post, he had a clear choice to divulge more, but it would have led to negative consequences that might not have been beneficial to him. Let us ensure we keep the reality that he faces accurately stated.

    And regards to addressing Daniel specifically, Daniel, you gave no one anything to go on. Why should anyone believe what you are saying other than if they know you? I do not know you all that well, and from our experiences, I became very aware that you were some-what close with president Dowden. Therefore, anything you say with regards to actions that the president makes, I will continue to treat with skepticism, especially when you provide no support. Give persons something of substance to go with and then you can legitimately refute skepticism, but until then, I believe it’s fair to expect it.

  7. Reply Daniel Binkoski Apr 3,2013 3:57 pm

    Kris,
    Belief in my statements can, for starters, stem from the fact that I am in a position to know. I naturally have closer ties to President Dowden than most students because I work with him on a fairly regular basis as Student Body President. This could be said in regards to my closeness to most of the administrators on campus, as well as the board. Because of my position and my relationships with administrators and the board, I am probably the only student who knows exactly what has transpired with the proposal for the name change and where it is today. Hopefully that gives me at least a minimal amount credibility. Beyond that, I think I have a decent record of supporting transparency and the distribution of information to students. You yourself, Kris, were appreciative of the open forums I helped put together during the controversies of last year. First and foremost, I care about students, and they are who I represent and work for. That is what my position is for, and that is what I have tried to fulfill while serving in it. I would hope that the integrity of my statements, both my honesty and the fact that I am working for students above all else, is not being questioned. I realize that my statement was not necessarily very informative, but I am speaking the truth, and what I feel is appropriate at this time given the information I know. Perhaps the name change is no longer taking place, and I am aware of the way the administration is going to announce that or close the issue? Would it be in anyone’s interest to preempt that? Sure I might get in trouble, but that is the least of my concerns. It would be negative for the administration as they are not allowed to disclose their own decision or face those who it affects. It would be negative for students because it lacks the direct response from administration that they have requested and deserve. It would be negative for future students because my breach of information that is currently confidential would undermine the trust that is put in the position of Student Body President, and could hamper future student input and participation in the higher levels of University decision making that happens through that position. On the other hand, perhaps the name change is taking place, and I am aware of how or when that is happening. By the same reasoning, to who’s benefit would it be for me to disclose the information that would come out in this way? Or, perhaps there were some complications with the decision that are not widely known and the decision to make the name change has not yet been made. Would it benefit anyone or the current process to disclose this in detail? Given any of these cases or others, I choose to be discrete in my statements because it seems to me to be the best decision for all parties, both present and future, at this time based on the information that I know. As to the President’s original statement, President Dowden is not the ultimate authority at Huntington University. He could say tomorrow that we are going to build a five-hundred million dollar building, but really it would be up to the Board of Trustees. Although President Dowden makes most of the day to day decisions, even simple things like a name change can take a route through the board. I think sincerity of intent at one moment is not necessarily invalidated by a lack of the intent’s fruition. These types of things often have more nuance than they appear on the face, and unfortunately can take a lot longer to decide on or implement than anyone would really like. All this is to say that your implication of any sort of lack of integrity in the original statement fails to consider in full both the nature and process of the name change, let alone the President’s personal integrity.

  8. Reply Kris Burgess Apr 3,2013 9:16 pm

    If I were to take you at your word, based solely on your position, that would open up a can of worms I could likely never close. That’s like saying that people should take the US President at his word. Watergate is the prime example of that being a bad idea.

    Daniel, you may be right, and you may know exactly what’s going on because of your position, but I and many others are not in your position and therefore have not the slightest clue as to what you know. Again, all we have to go on is what has been said. Wouldn’t you agree that what has been said does not amount to much? From an objective standpoint?

    You are right, I was appreciative of the open forums, but as I have previously said, I was very disappointed in a good few of Dowden’s responses. Just because some people are okay to take his half-hearted attempt at PR-spinning as a good enough answer, it does not mean that everyone is. If people like myself didn’t push the envelope or ask the tough questions, humanity would still believe many a things that have been refuted.

    You say “I would hope that the integrity of my statements, both my honesty and the fact that I am working for students above all else, is not being questioned.” You can hope this all you want, but when you get out into the real world, you will realize that it is not as welcoming as HU is. People will not just take you at your word. That’s the real world. It may have been this way in the past, but at least in my experience being out of undergrad for 10 months now, it’s just not the case. I hope you realize this for yourself sooner than later.

    I am glad you recognize that your statement was not informative. You made a call, you stand by it, good! That is important. But just because you make a stand by what you think is the right call, do not assume that everyone will accept that. I still do not. You readily admit that you know more than you were letting on. Therefore you showed me right to be skeptical. Heck, you could know things, like you say, that would make me feel really stupid – i.e. that real progress has been made toward implementing the name change. If that’s the case, GREAT! You’re right and I am being unnecessarily skeptical. But until you’re willing to go on the record and say it, well, I will continue to be skeptical. I am not a journalist, and have no duty to only report or comment what I can prove. I, like you, am free to speculate until I am red in the fingers from typing.

    You’re right to consider the implications of what you say. Looking at what saying either way would do to others is a good quality to have as a leader. But know, that you will always fail to satisfy someone. At the end of the day, you will have to decide for yourself what you can sleep at night with.

    As to Dowden’s original statement, I completely understand that he is not the ultimate authority, I never said he was. However, like any other leader, what is wrong with holding him accountable for what he says. Isn’t this what integrity is all about? I think so. If it’s taking the board time, why can’t Dowden answer for himself? Maybe he did instruct you to let us know, who knows? I for one, have no idea other than I haven’t heard a word of the name change until this article.

    I will continue to imply that some of Dowden’s words lack integrity until he gives me a reason to be wrong. He showed me at the forums that he’s not willing to cut through the smoke and I still do not see a name change. I personally believe it’s about time that Christian leaders were faced with tough critics, because they have had it easy for far too long, in my opinion. Most of what I know about Dowden comes from what I’ve read, and how he seems to believe that he knows each student personally when I think I may have shook his hand once and talked to him on two occasions. He was in no way my friend, ever, but seemed to think that he was whenever I engaged with him. What does this say about someone when they assume that they are friends with everyone in a vast group of people?

    I appreciate your well-thought-out response. I hope that you continue to work for your constituency as you say you have. Best of luck to you with the rest of your year, but I stand by what I said – show me I’m wrong and I’ll concede.

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