An open letter to Dean Lavine

    Dear Dean Lavine,

    I want my money back.

    When I chose to come to Medill, I came for the name. Honestly, what else really matters in the world of college decisions?

    That was only three years ago, when Medill had one of the most recognized journalism names in the country. Recognized for its no-nonsense, serious approach to reporting. Recognized for being the best.

    Now Medill is recognized for something else: you. You and your use of anonymous sources.

    Medill has rarely lived up to my expectations. As a freshman, I was severely disappointed with the quality of my Medill classes. They were some of the worst classes I had ever taken. But that wasn’t your fault. You weren’t the dean then.

    But then I spoke to you in person my sophomore year about the terrible quality of Medill’s classes, you shrugged me off. You said the curriculum had been changed. That things would be better from now on. And I believed you. I was blindly, stupidly impressed with your charisma and your slick vision of a new future for Medill. Your last name even rhymed with your title — this, I thought, was at least good sign.

    I’m kicking myself now. I can see clearly that I’m a student in Medill during an unfortunate period of change and upheaval. My class and the classes below me have been the guinea pigs for a shoddily designed transition into the future of journalism.

    Poorly taught new media, outdated technology, compromised journalistic standards, the new emphasis on marketing: in a phrase, Medill’s name currently isn’t worth the résumé paper it’s printed on.

    I was hoping to grab my degree in a year and a half and sprint out of here and get a job before the backlash against Medill’s name began. But then this happened.

    Maybe you didn’t forge quotes in Medill’s alumni magazine. There’s really no way to know. But your apology letter sent out to students and faculty came far too late to save our name from the barrage of negative press.

    Isn’t this what you’re supposed to be good at, Dean Lavine? Image? Damage control? Isn’t that what marketing is all about?

    Then you should have known that a quick apology could have nipped this in the bud. Instead, you smugly refused to defend your “veracity” last week. You commended David Spett in a letter to faculty as though he were a harmless amateur, as if his accusations could be dismissed that easily. What did you think, that this was going to blow over?

    Well, it hasn’t blown over. It’s exploded. And so, like any good celebrity entering rehab, you’ve humbled yourself. You’ve apologized. You’ve backpedaled. It might be enough to save your name, but it isn’t enough to save ours. Medill’s name is now a bad word in the journalism world.

    About a week ago I was interviewing a researcher at Harvard for a story, and your “poor judgment” was the first thing he brought up. My cheeks burned. Not for the first time, I was embarrassed to call Medill my school.

    So, Dean Lavine, I want my money back. It’s not a lot — Northwestern has good financial aid, at least — but I want it back. Because Lord knows I won’t be able to find a job after graduating, and I need something to fall back on.


    Jessi Knowles


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