Legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward said, “It was accountability that Nixon feared.” And he was right. And that is precisely what he and Carl Bernstein set out to achieve in their now famous investigation of the Nixon administration: accountability to the American people for the decisions and actions of those in power. The example they set in demonstrating the necessity of investigative journalism remains as powerful today as it did when Watergate took down an administration intent on deliberately breaking the law and using power and position to hide it from the public. For the press as a whole, and for The Indy, it was and still is about accountability.
Last week, The Indy published a piece that was in part about Dixie State University’s systematic failure to adhere to policies and procedures as well as state and federal laws as they pertain not only to the two recent rape allegations reported by local media but a host of others as well. And echoing in my mind while I wrote the piece was the admonition of one reader who told me that I needed to put the whip away because the horse was dead.
I could not disagree more.
Because simply put, the same people who have gotten away with abusing their positions are still there and, furthermore, may still be doing it.
This will not stand. And it will take more than just reporting one isolated incident — say, for example, the arbitrary and capricious removal of professor Joel Lewis — to have any effect on the situation whatsoever, it would appear. Lewis was lured into a meeting with DSU President Biff Williams and other members of faculty and administration under false pretenses and given the ultimatum of taking a financial payout to leave or be fired. That incident alone should have alone resulted in the firing of Williams, at least.
More examples of similarly egregious and unethical behavior by the institution have been reported here, and there are at present at least half a dozen more stories in the works of a similar nature.
With respect to the reader’s admonition about whips, I’d say that perhaps more are needed than should be put away. The metaphorical whip being an honest and aggressive press followed by legal action should it be necessary, it seems to be the only thing that stands a chance of not only bringing justice to past incidents but preventing them from happening anymore.
It stands to reason that it is the same for DSU with regards to past and ongoing litigation and allegations of wrongdoing. It is apparently not enough to persuade DSU to a course of action that will right the path of this embattled school — taking responsibility for what has happened, firing a host of people involved, and putting in place an administration that will not allow these things any longer.
But in the meantime, I want you, the public at large and especially anyone who attends or works at that school, to consider the following advice.
If you are asked to meet with anyone who is your superior and you feel it may be about your job our your attendance as a student, document the meeting. Take notes. Record audio. It is your right and in your best interest to have an accurate account of said meeting.
If you are the victim of a crime, report it to the St. George Police Department in addition to reporting it at the school. In my opinion, the DSU Campus Police Department is compromised by its chief and his pattern of unethical and perhaps illegal behavior. Too often, the campus police seem to protect the interests of the school and its brand more than anything else. I would go as far as to say that it would perhaps be better for everyone if the St. George Police had a university division and the current campus department were removed all together.
And if you are accused of anything, you have rights that this school has unequivocally proven itself incapable of protecting and/or unwilling to protect. Document the meeting in notes and audio. Say absolutely nothing, and enact your right to counsel. If you are told that you do not have a right to counsel, you are being lied to.
Lastly, should you find yourself in any of the above situations, consider contacting the press. There is no guarantee that your situation will become a story, but in the spirit of accountability for the institution, it would be good for you to have your side on record somewhere.
If what people in power fear most is accountability, it is reasonable that what people subjected to that power fear most is how it is abused when the people who have it are not held to account. And until this school and its known and yet-to-be-known affiliates see clearly to straighten up and fly right, the whip stays.
See you out there.
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