The DE got interested because administrative sources kept telling them that all interviews with the press to be funneled through Rod Sievers, spokesman for the university. Just who this policy applies to (i.e., whether all employees are supposed to follow it) isn't entirely clear--though if it is supposed to apply to all campus employees, some of us have been, ahem, acting contrary to university policy. Oh my.
Money quote, from the email released following the FOIA filing:
In that email, which the university released to the DE, Cheng tells Sievers to make sure administrators have DE reporters go through Sievers for their stories.
“We cannot have the DE kids shopping for responses. Please remind them all to go through you to coordinate official responses,” she said.
"DE kids shopping for responses" is a particularly nice example of contempt for our students. "Shopping for responses"--i.e., reporting, isn't something we want our kid reporters to do. The university has tried to escape via obfuscation: this isn't a "policy"--because only things they ask the BOT to approve count as "policies". And it's just an attempt to be more efficient, not an effort to control information. Of course it's an attempt to "coordinate" & control information.
To be fair, all organizations make some effort to control information. The FA had a spokesperson, after all. And we made some effort to inform our members of talking points. But we didn't try to tell our members that they couldn't talk to the press--thank goodness, or I would have been overwhelmed with requests during the strike (and many smart people wouldn't have said smart things to the media).
The university has also made an effort to prevent employees from contacting state agencies like the IBHE, again citing efficiency, and a desire not to overburden the state agencies will ill-informed requests--but no doubt also in a desire to control information flow.
The move to centralize control over information is one part of the consistent effort on the part of the Cheng administration to centralize power. Their seizure of full "position control" over hiring is the example most faculty are familiar with. There are arguments to be made in favor of centralized control of things. Here's an argument against it. We haven't exactly had a run of successful Chancellors of late. The incumbent's move to centralize power is thus double risky. First, given our decidedly mixed track record with Chancellors, the more power we rest in the office, the greater the risk is when we get a dud in office. And then there's the risk--or, rather, the near necessity--that each time we change Chancellors we'll see a sea-change on campus, in which new logos are the least of our worries.
Leaving more power at the college and departmental level is less risky, at least in the sense that one lousy chair or dean can only do localized damage, and deans and chairs are probably less able to implement root and branch change, given the various checks & balances over their behavior.
Who knows, perhaps our next Chancellor will believe in freedom of speech, encourage "the DE kids" to do real reporting, and empower deans, chairs, and faculty. That would leave our heads spinning in a new direction. Who knows?