Some Medill Professors Also Support an Independent Investigation of the Protess Affair

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The call for an independent investigation of the breach between Medill and its best-known professor, David Protess, has been taken up by some Medill faculty members.

Protess, barred from the classroom this quarter and on leave, called for such an investigation himself, and last Wednesday about 30 investigative journalists and educators from across the country seconded the idea. They said in a joint statement :

We support such an investigation and we call on our colleagues, especially those covering the news media, to join in investigating what is happening at Northwestern University. We also ask university officials to present themselves in a public session to explain their actions, and to answer questions on why they have endangered one of the premier investigative reporting projects in the country.

David Nelson and Donna Leff are the two most senior professors at Medill, each having taught there more than 30 years. When they read the statement online, they sent a head's up to the full faculty: "We thought this statement from a distinguished group of professors and journalists, including former students, would be of interest. We too support an independent investigation."

They tell me they've heard from a half dozen faculty members. The first was associate professor Craig LaMay, who on a faculty listserv explained his support. "I am not advocating for any individual in this situation or any interpretation of it," he wrote, "but instead for the University and Medill, both of which have as their core mission intellectual and moral leadership, both of which are lacking here. It is insufficient to talk about this episode as a legal problem. It’s obviously also a normative one, and for me it’s also a journalism problem — I can’t square the facts as they’ve been presented to me. Obviously others have the same concern."

"If we don’t have an investigation, this'll never go away," Nelson says. He considers some of the language in the joint statement extreme — such as the assertion that Northwestern's conduct against Protess "appears to be a retaliatory campaign." Nelson disagrees with that, but he thinks the air needs to be cleared.

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