GSU and the AJC

With an admissions scandal in the news I thought I’d check the status of a whistle blower lawsuit by a former Graduate Admissions official at Georgia State University:

The suit involved removing low test scores to boost rankings. It was filed last Oct. and first reported on by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But given the AJC’s close ties to GSU, former Cox Enterprises CEO John Dyer sits on the Georgia State University Foundation Board, there’s concern the paper’s coverage might be skewed to protect University officials.

The AJC article quotes GSU Robinson College Dean Richard D. Phillips as saying “he was unaware of the deletions, unsure when they began or why they were done.”

Obtaining a copy of the lawsuit, it contradicts this quote. It states in paragraph 30 that the whistle blower, Kacy Jackson, met with Dean Phillips “and disclosed the same list of violations to him, forwarded her emails with [former Assistant Dean of Graduate Recruiting] McChesney confirming the practices to which she had objected….”

Georgia State and The Board of Regents filed their Answers and Defenses, which in paragraph 30 admits Jackson met with Dean Phillips to discuss “her concerns about activities within the admissions office” but in paragraph 37 “denies that Phillips instructed Plaintiff to ‘keep the unlawful activity she reported confidential,’ and further denies that Plaintiff reported unlawful activity.”

Both Complaint and Defense Paragraphs 39 admit that an Audit Report found test scores had been deleted from applicant files. Yet the Defense “denies any allegation or implication that Plaintiff reported unlawful activity.”

The AJC article mentions having a copy of the audit report, but didn’t publish it or the full original suit.

After a recent status conference, the Judge in the case posted a Scheduling indicating the case is currently still moving forward.

But I’ve seen no other news reports or independent investigations since the suit was filed.

In the spring of 2014 GSU announced, during finals week as the campus was emptying out for the summer, a partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting giving the state agency daytime control of student-funded WRAS.

The AJC reported the news in the D section of its May 8th issue with the rather boosterish headline “Atlanta gets 2nd NPR station.”

The Front Page of the same edition featured an article on GSU’s plans to redevelop Turner Field.

The full article included a picture of GSU President Mark Becker showing off renderings at the AJC’s own offices.

A second Turner Field article appeared in the Sports Section complete with a pull quote praising Mark Becker’s bold vision.

The timing and placement of such coverage helped overshadow questions about the secretive, back room deal involving WRAS.

The GSU Foundation was involved in the financing of the Turner Field Development and in giving Mark Becker a massive $500,000 raise a year later.

Moreover, once GPB began broadcasting on WRAS, AJC reporters immediately became regular guests.

A later Open Records Request revealed AJC efforts to get its own content on the student-funded station even as #SaveWRAS protests were ongoing.

Since starting a new Atlanta affiliate, in direct competition with Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s WABE, GPB has lost millions, but there’s been little accountability for GPB’s financial losses from the AJC or the state politicians who regularly appear on its programs.

Or from NPR or PBS nationally.

Like the Varsity Blues scandal, this all shows prominent people and institutions promoting and protecting each other at the expense of those outside their elite circle.