North Wind Faculty Adviser Fired, Top Editor-in-Chief Candidate Rejected at Northern Michigan

The Board of Directors of The North Wind, the student newspaper at Northern Michigan University, has voted to not rehire faculty adviser Cheryl Reed for the next school year. In addition, the board has rejected current managing editor Michael Williams’ candidacy to be the next editor-in-chief. He is the only student who applied for the paper’s top spot. But his EIC dreams were dashed in a 5-4 vote after a “lengthy executive [read: secret] session.”

According to an initial report posted on the North Wind site, “Current editor-in-chief Emma Finkbeiner was not allowed in the interview of Michael Williams or in the discussion of his candidacy following due to the ruling of an ‘executive session.’ Finkbeiner is not considered a part of the board due to her non-voting status. The discussion of the rehiring of Reed was not listed on the agenda.” Yowza.

1The board’s chair Aubrey Kall disputes the agenda listing portion of the North Wind piece. She writes in a public statement shared on Facebook that the listing was included in the agenda placed online two days before the meeting. But it’s unclear if the general category “2015-16 Appointments” was understood by Reed and others to mean a vote on her future employment.

Bottom line, not involving the current editor-in-chief in the selection of her replacement? Making a decision about a faculty adviser without the say of current student staff? And not elevating the paper’s current second-in-command, the only candidate for the gig, to the top spot? On spec, it doesn’t sound good, folks.

One more question: Might these decisions and machinations have something to do with North Wind’s, ahem, aggressive journalism? As I previously posted, the paper has upped its journalistic A-game in recent months. Instead of crafting “cupcake stories,” the pub has been digging, exploring, asking tough questions and filing FOIA requests — at times rubbing NMUers the wrong way.

Kall’s comeback to that charge: “In my role as chair of the board, I know I will be asked if the president, administration or faculty had anything to do with pressuring the students [on the board] into this vote. I can unequivocally state that no pressure was applied on or request made to the students of the board to vote for or against any North Wind staff members for next year. Each was encouraged to decide for themselves.”

In a current student-on-the-street feature, the North Wind asks individuals to suggest something they would change about NMU. Would the paper’s suggestion now be its own board of directors?

4 Responses to “North Wind Faculty Adviser Fired, Top Editor-in-Chief Candidate Rejected at Northern Michigan”
  1. Here are some things, perhaps, upon which Aubrey Kall may elaborate:

    Why is a member of the administration that The North Wind covers on its board and how does the newspaper reconcile this glaring conflict of interest?

    Is it standard practice to reappoint the newspaper’s advisor each year? If so, has the editorial staff ever been prohibited from discussing the matter with the board? How does the board reconcile that its bylaws state that the editorial staff must be included in the advisor’s approval process. (Assuming that the approval process is an annual affair.)

    What was the specific reason for the board entering an executive session? “To discuss personnel matters,” is not enough to satisfy the provisions of the previous question.

    What has been the practice in year’s past in regards to allowing outgoing editors to participate in the discussions concerning their successors? And if, in the past, the standard practice was for editors to be allowed to participate in those discussions, why was the practice changed this year?

    Respectfully, I will give Ms. Kall and the board the benefit of the doubt until those questions are adequately answered.

    • Andy Frakes says:

      One can appreciate what you’re saying/asking here, Michael. To answer some of your queries: the executive session was called by one Troy Morris, a student member of the board who has no knowledge of the paper or its workings. He had no reason to call this special session other than (personal speculation) the several editorial staff members sitting in on the meeting for solidarity and support. He simply didn’t want them in the room. As for why there are conflicts of interest amongst board members in relation to their other roles on campus, I couldn’t tell you. I wasn’t asked when these board members were appointed. Also, yes it’s common for one adviser to serve multiple terms and be reappointed; however, any power or voice the staff may have had in the past to contribute to that decision was wrested away yesterday when we were told the president would be likely appointing someone of his own choosing.

      Respectfully, the questions you’re asking don’t lend themselves to be in Ms. Kall’s favor, and I certainly don’t think she deserves the benefit of anyone’s doubt right now. The North Wind is being stifled for the intensive journalistic work it has been doing (for better or worse) and we as the editorial staff have nearly nonexistent control over what that board decides to do. If you have further comments or questions that the staff might be able to answer, I encourage you to get in contact with us. Online commenting is a tough way to have a good dialogue.

      • Michael Joy says:

        I’m faculty at NMU (and, by coincidence, a former student journalist myself) and know both Aubrey Kall and Troy Morris. They are fine students and people, and have given much of themselves to the university. My hunch is that they will have a lot of support among their fellow students, and others in the campus community. My sense–anecdotal, of course, supported only by my conversations with students and fellow faculty members–is that many share my belief that the North Wind really lost its way this year.