On the morning of Thursday, May 2, the student media adviser Tom Martin met with Interim Academic Dean Dr. Michael Cairo. At that meeting, Dr. Cairo informed Martin that the budget for The Rambler’s student stipends would be eliminated. Martin was also informed that his own contract would be eliminated and that he would be replaced with an unpaid faculty adviser.
On the afternoon of May 2, that same day, Dr. Scott Whiddon and Dr. Kurt Gohde also met with Dr. Cairo about the future of The Rambler. They were informed of the same cuts to The Rambler, and were informed that the cuts were made for “ philosophical, rather than purely fiscal” reasons, according to a memo written by Dr. Whiddon and provided to The Rambler
When the staff of The Rambler was informed of these cuts by Martin, they decided to 1) create a petition protesting the decision and 2) begin an immediate work stoppage. This led to press coverage and statements from several journalistic organizations, including the Bluegrass chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
On Friday, May 3, the staff of The Rambler met with Dr. Cairo and Megan Moloney, the Vice President of Marketing & Communications. At the meeting, Dr. Cairo stated that he was “not prepared to respond” to the staff’s questions and concerns. The administrators claimed that they were open to a discussion with the staff about the future direction of The Rambler, although they refused to comment on any specifics, and stated that staff stipends would not be considered at all. They claimed that they intended for the decisions communicated to Martin, Whiddon, and Gohde on Thursday to be the start of a discussion. These claims are in direct contradiction to the accounts of Mr. Martin, Dr. Whiddon, and Dr. Gohde, who were informed that the decisions had already been made.
On Monday, May 6, the University Communications Office released a statement that contained several false or misleading statements, the most egregious of which was that The Rambler was the only student organization on campus to receive payment for its work (the University pep band is also paid).
The University claimed that it will continue to work with the student staff of The Rambler, but as previously noted, no student staff were involved in the decision making process prior to May 2. Further, when the staff reached out to attempt to schedule a further meeting with Ms. Moloney and Dr. Cairo, Ms. Moloney declined for the rest of the current week, and Dr. Cairo stated that any discussions would have to be delayed until “late August or early September” at the soonest, and would have to be held with an as-yet unnamed new Academic Dean. It is unclear how a process can continue when it had not begun and when the University has been unwilling to begin that process.
In its statement, the University states that it “values the role The Rambler plays on campus.” The University claims that it remains dedicated to the editorial independence of The Rambler. The involvement of Ms. Moloney, who is responsible for all public relations for the University, is highly unusual given the potential conflict of interests that might result from involvement with both the Marketing & Communications office and an editorially independent Rambler.
The staff of The Rambler remains committed to producing high-quality, independent journalism for the Transylvania community. We will continue to report on developments as we become aware of them, so check back here for updates.
This story was written by Tristan Reynolds.