In other news: correction

September 21, 2011

Since publishing Monday’s post (“In other news“), I’ve learned that I got something wrong — and that Student Government got something even more wrong.

SG statutes do allow the student body president to appoint the “student media outlet senior leadership” (see 501.230).
Student Affairs head Charles Brown informed me yesterday that this rule has been on the books at least since he arrived at FAU in 2006, but it was news to me. And University Press leaders who served before me. And the University Press‘ adviser of 12 years. SG never informed our student media outlet’s senior leadership that the statute was created.
Brown, who signs off on all SG legislation, couldn’t tell me when the statute was established or whether it was established in accordance with state laws, which require an open process. I’m investigating the matter and will publish an update when I have the full story.

UPDATE (9/21/11): Current Owl TV interim station manager AJ Jordat turns 29 on Tuesday of next week (Sept. 27), not Tuesday of this week, as originally reported.

In other news

September 19, 2011

In May 2010, FAU’s Division of Student Affairs fired all of the university’s student media outlet advisers. The abrupt jettison made headlines across the county, but everyone from the then-student media director (who quit 12 months after she started) to the division head himself insisted the move was part of a “restructuring” designed to “move student media forward.”

Since then, Student Affairs’ actions have disproved their words.

By “restructuring” they meant “destructuring,” as fewer student media outlets have advisers today. And by “moving student media forward” they meant, most recently, allowing the student body president to unilaterally appoint a plagiarizer as leader of the TV outlet after he used TV outlet footage, FAU equipment, and FAU’s name and logo to help him land a gig with Playboy.

AJ Jordat

The public Facebook photo of the new manager of FAU's student-run TV station. Screenshot: Taken Sept. 14, 2011

Owl TV, FAU’s student-run TV station, was among the outlets that lost their adviser in May 2010 — and it’s still awaiting a new one. In the absence of an adviser…

Presidential behavior

Owl TV has gone through at least half a dozen station managers in the past year (instead of one every six months).

At least two quit before their terms ended. At least two were only interim to begin with. One was deemed ineligible after the selection committee voted on him and he had started the job. And last month, two were forced out for unclear reasons. (They declined to comment on the record, but what I know of their side of the story doesn’t match the Office of Student Media’s side.)

When our new student media director, Michael Gaede, deemed those last two outlet heads allegedly unfit to continue in their positions, Gaede had been on the job for less than two months. So, he told me, he consulted Student Body President Ayden Maher, who decided that he would appoint an interim station manager to run the problem outlet for the entire fall 2011 semester.

The thing is:

  1. It’s not in the rules. Maher says that Student Government statutes allow him to do so, and Gaede says he confirmed that with his boss, Associate Dean of Student Terry Mena, who is Student Affairs’ third-in-command. But the statutes posted on SG’s own website only state that the student body president may appoint interim chief justices and interim elections chairs in certain situations: They do not address interim student media outlet heads.
  2. It’s not the norm. At FAU, student media outlet heads are chosen by a selection committee of at least five members, which include the student body president (or more often, his delegate — Maher has been in office for at least two sets of three selections but has never attended).
  3. It might be illegal. According to the Student Press Law Center, this depends on state employment laws and where the money for the outlet head comes from. “Alarm bells are ringing,” SPLC attorney Adam Goldstein told me last week. “A deviation from that [usual selection] practice looks shady, I have to say.” The SPLC is now looking into the matter.
  4. It’s a conflict of interest. Our student media outlets cover our Student Government; therefore, for the head of SG to appoint the outlet heads is a conflict of interest that would call all SG coverage into question.
  5. It wasn’t advertised well. One of Maher’s and Gaede’s defenses is that the appointee was the best candidate out of everyone who applied for the position anyway. But it’s easy to be the best candidate when few students apply because few knew the position was open. Besides a tweet and a Facebook update, I don’t know that Student Government, Student Affairs, or the Office of Student media advertised the position. Even the guy who got the job told me he wouldn’t have known it was available if someone hadn’t told him.

Playboy leadership

Because the appointment was a closed process, the only details I have are secondhand. The one confirmable fact is who got the position: Alberto “AJ” Jordat Jr.

Here’s what I can tell you about him:

He didn’t appear to want the job. Jordat worked for Owl TV in the past but wasn’t working for them in any capacity when he applied to run the outlet. Further, it wasn’t his first choice. Jordat applied for the station manager position after applying for Student Government’s elections chair position but not getting it.

He sees “nothing wrong” with a student leader representing the university in a Playboy contest. A few weeks before he was appointed, Jordat entered the 2011 Be A Playboy Producer For A Day Contest, sponsored by video-sharing website Dailymotion.

The thing is, he entered as AJ Jordat the FAU multimedia major, not AJ Jordat, some unaffiliated guy whose dream job is to work for Playboy.

In other words, rather than create a video specifically for the contest and entering it as if he had no affiliations to FAU, Jordat compiled existing Owl TV footage — which includes shots of Owl TV’s logo, Student Government’s logo, and FAU’s logo — and entered it with FAU’s name attached. (Click on the three links below for examples.)

“It’s relevant to what I do,” Jordat told me, explaining that he included his university and major so that Playboy would know who and what he is. “It’s not an FAU association.”

But regardless of why he did it, FAU’s name and logos are still all over the three videos that Jordat submitted to the Playboy contest.

AJ_Playboy video

Note the description below the video. Screenshot: Taken Sept. 14, 2011 (click to enlarge)

(Click here to view more screenshots from this video. NOTE: Some may not consider these images work-safe and/or child-safe.)

Pool_Foam video

All of the footage seen in this video was shot at FAU on-campus events. Screenshot: Taken Sept. 14, 2011 (click to enlarge)

(Click here to view more screenshots from this video. NOTE: Some may not consider these images work-safe and/or child-safe.)

Jenna_Larissa video

Note the description below the video. Screenshot: Taken Sept. 14, 2011 (click to enlarge)

(Click here to view more screenshots from this video. NOTE: Some may not consider these images work-safe and/or child-safe.)

FAU’s name is also all over the dozens of public tweets that Jordat has made in order to promote his entries. (The contest winner will be selected based in part on how many hits his entries earn.) For example:

Screenshot: Taken Sept. 14, 2011 (click to enlarge)

(Click here for more such tweets.)

I doubt FAU’s Division of Marketing & Creative Services — which tightly controls the university brand — would approve of Jordat’s including logos in his entries.

“A key component of FAU’s brand, the University’s visual identity is the sum of all the images and visual impressions associated with FAU,” their web page reads.

And I doubt the head of FAU’s Division of Student Affairs, Charles Brown, would approve of Jordat’s entering the contest as an FAU student and remaining in it as a student leader.

“In terms of when you take on leadership roles, everything that you do represents the university. You don’t want to create a bad impression,” Brown told me when I was editor-in-chief. “I tell students that all the time.”

Plus, if the editor-in-chief entered the Playboy contest as Jordat did, Student Government leaders would be up in arms, and the heads of Student Affairs would call him into their offices for a series of lectures. The EIC even gets dirty looks when FAU and Playboy happen to make news together and the University Press simply reports that news.

When I reported in October that FAU may party Playboy-style, I caught more cold shoulders and upturned noses than usual in the halls of the Student Union. When we reported in our 2010 New Student Edition that FAU’s quirky former students include porn star Mary Carey, I (EIC at the time) heard all about how badly we made the university look.

What’s funny about that last example is that, based on his public tweets, Jordat actually knows, is friends with, and hangs out with Mary Carey — and has the photos to prove it.

He plagiarized. By entering the 2011 Playboy Producer For A Day Contest, you “agree to the terms and conditions,” as it says beneath the contest directions.

Those terms and conditions state that “all Videos: (a) must be a wholly original, audio-visual performance created by the Contest Entrant” and that “all elements used, incorporated into or otherwise appearing in a Video must be entirely original, created and performed by the Contest Entrant or be in the public domain.”

But Jordat was but one of at least nine people involved with the creation of the Owl TV footage that he compiled to create his contest entries, according to the original footage credits.

Jordat denies plagiarizing and told me that he edited all of the original Owl TV footage himself. “I put those [other] people’s names on the credits because they gave me creative input,” he said.

The thing is, by entering the contest, Jordat didn’t agree that he did all the editing himself: He agreed that he did all elements himself.

But Jordat admitted that he didn’t take the photographs in the first and third videos above and that he didn’t film the footage in the second video. And taking credit for someone else’s work is the essence of plagiarism.

No wonder

In Jordat’s defense, I’ve heard positive reviews of his efforts as station manager from the student media director. (Granted, Gaede supported the student body president’s closed appointment of Jordat.)

“I’m trying my best,” Jordat told me. “I’m trying my best with what I’ve got.”

And it’s not Jordat’s fault that what he’s got still doesn’t include an adviser.

UPA: At long last? (part 3)

August 30, 2011

[UPDATE (9/19/11): No one called me out for forgetting to update this posts a couple of weeks ago, but Dan Sweeney is now an official employee. He started the week before last.]

It’s official: Local freelancer Dan Sweeney will be the full-time, paid adviser to FAU’s student newspaper a week or two from now.

He’s accepted the offer and completed most of the paperwork stage. According to Sweeney’s new boss, new student media director Michael Gaede, he’ll start on Sept. 6 or 12, depending on how quickly his paperwork gets processed. They’ll know for sure by the end of tomorrow (I’ll update this post if you check back on Thursday).

In the interim, I’ve been asked for my take on Sweeney by a couple of non-newspaper members of the Office of Student Media. I’ve answered them pretty bluntly but don’t think it’s fair to opine publicly before Sweeney even gets started.

So instead I asked him what he had to say about himself and his new gig. We spoke by phone for about 15 minutes yesterday.

Part of Dan Sweeney's freelancer profile at Screenshot: Taken Aug. 30, 2011 (click to enlarge)

Sweeney seems genuinely excited about getting involved with student media and likened it to “a dream job.” Hopefully that means we’ll get to meet him early at this Friday’s University Press staff meeting (I heard he’s been invited since last week).

Sweeney seems to understand that a student newspaper adviser’s role is just that: advisory. When I asked if he had any plans going into the job, he first acknowledged that his role may vary somewhat from one editor-in-chief to another since the level and manner of his involvement will depend on the editor-in-chief’s needs and wants. I was impressed, as that realization indicates that he grasps the nature of his new position in a way that most candidates for the job didn’t — and that most of the Division of Student Affairs still struggles to, in my opinion.

He also demonstrated an informed and ethical stance on prior review and prior restraint. He claimed to be against both but did say he’d hope students would want to share their work with him before it’s published. (I told him that would probably happen naturally if he gains their trust and they become comfortable with him.)

My one disappointment was a lack of concrete details. When I asked Sweeney about his plans, he volunteered few specifics. When I asked how much of the UP he’s read and what he thought of it, he only mentioned the past three issues, about which he had generic comments (e.g., a new student guide is helpful to freshmen) rather than journalistic commentary.


NEXT WEEK: What the new adviser means for his predecessor


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