Monday, November 29, 2021

Bias panel

The panel investigating the infiltration wont mend relations

A panel appointed to review the undercover investigation of a campus group will do little to help resolve this situation.

MSU President M. Peter McPherson appointed an independent three-person panel Tuesday to review the undercover investigation of Students for Economic Justice. The panel will also examine public opinion on the infiltration. McPherson also said the group may be given leeway to examine the New Year’s Eve 1999 arson in Agriculture Hall.

University officials said Tuesday part of the motivation to investigate SEJ, formerly known as United Students Against Sweatshops, was because a member of the group was being investigated in connection with the arson.

The panel is to report its findings by fall semester to an expanded University Committee on Student Affairs. The committee is part of the Academic Council, the highest body of faculty and students in Academic Governance that deals with general student regulations and rights.

While the panel is a good idea in theory, it is unlikely to make much of a difference. There seems to be no effort to make amends with SEJ or students in general about the matter and simply asking for public opinion does little to help mend the distrust that stemmed from this incident.

To truly reach out to students to help regain trust, the administration should have appointed a student member to the panel. It is important to have student input in every stage of this review and that can’t be achieved unless a student is an active member of the panel.

Even though the panel is given the “unfettered ability to ask what they want,” as McPherson said, there are still many facts that will never come out. Because the arson is under investigation and many details have to be kept confidential, many things will still remain unsaid. It won’t matter how many questions the panel asks. If the answers cannot be found, what purpose is the review serving?

Unless the panel is empowered with unlimited access, which is unlikely, little will be revealed that will help make this situation less confusing. This will only perpetuate feelings that things are being withheld from the public and breed more frustration among students.

The “independent” quality of this panel is also questionable. Each member has a tie to MSU. Former state Rep. Lynne Martinez has a child who attends MSU, Russell Mawby is a former MSU professor and trustee and Norman Abeles has been a psychology professor at MSU since 1968.

These individuals are all qualified to conduct this review, however, their ties to MSU make objectivity questionable. This also incites mistrust by students of the administration, by giving the impression the panel may be a public relations tool of the administration to make it look as if it is making efforts to improve student-administration relations.

The idea of a review panel to investigate the police infiltration of SEJ is admirable, but the execution of the plan serves only to continue mistrust and confusion.

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