In response to the campuswide e-mail sent by Provost Thomas Pearson last Wednesday requesting a correction to the story titled, “New Physician’s Assistant Program Underway,” The Outlookwould like to say the following.
With regard to the Provost’s charge that the “story as written is inaccurate,” the paper would agree that any impression of the program being completely approved through the proper process is inaccurate on our behalf. Our comments that the program “will be launched since approval of the University’s Graduate Studies Committee was granted last month” in the lead and “even though the program has already been approved” which ran later in the story, might have given readers the idea that the approval process had been completed. That is not the case. While everyone the paper spoke to agreed that the program would ultimately be approved and that it would likely be launched in the fall of 2014, it had technically received partial approval at the time of publication, having only been voted on by the Graduate Studies Committee, so to say that it was “approved”, suggesting fully, is in fact, inaccurate.
The Provost states that the headline to the story “should have indicated that the New Physician Assistant Program is under consideration.” The Outlook agrees that the Provost’s headline is absolutely accurate, and perhaps better than our own. However, to say that the P.A. program is “underway” could also mean that it is now officially submitted for approvals. It could mean that the process is underway. That being said, the Provost’s headline is certainly less ambiguous.
The Provost further wrote in his e-mail, regarding the reporter’s inquiry with Dean Janet Mahoney, “Dean Mahoney’s e-mail…which I have reviewed...clearly indicated that the program had not yet been approved.” While the e-mail does seem to indicate that the program had not been fully approved, The Outlookdoes not agree with the term ‘clearly’. The e-mail from Dean Mahoney said, “It is a little too early to talk about the details about the masters of science physician’s assistant (P.A.) program. We are in the process of bringing the P.A. proposal to various committees on and off campus. As of March 2012, the Graduate Studies Committee approved the P.A. curriculum. We are hoping to start the program in fall 2014.” While this e-mail does say that Dr. Mahoney feels the paper is a bit premature, and does point out that the proposal will be shown to other committees, it does not say that these committees play any role in the approval process. The e-mail further states that the Graduate Studies Committee “approved the P.A. curriculum” and that there is hope to start the program in fall 2014. Our point is that the e-mail does suggest that the program evaluation is ongoing, but does not “clearly,” to use the Provost’s word, indicate it has “not yet been approved.”
Lastly, the Provost told the campus community that “publication of the story…occurred without my knowledge,” implying that The Outlook was remiss or irresponsible in not contacting him prior to publication. In fact, The Outlookdid just that, twice. On Monday, April 2 at 7:28 pm, the day the reporter received the assignment, she e-mailed Provost Pearson directly, asking if he had time to meet with her prior to publication, which occurred on April 10, a full week later. She also offered, recognizing the demands of his office, that she could, in lieu of an actual interview, for his convenience, e-mail a few questions. When the reporter did not hear back, she followed up the e-mail with a phone call.
The paper certainly understands that their Provost has many demands placed upon him. We did, however, need to move forward with the story, and reached out to many qualified sources, several of whom did not appear in the final copy. But it is neither fair nor accurate to publicly chastise the paper for not speaking with the Provost prior to publication when the Provost was unresponsive to the paper’s attempt.
In short, The Outlook deeply apologizes for any real or perceived inaccuracies in our story regarding the pending Physician’s Assistant Program. To quote the Washington Post’s code of ethics, “Truth is our goal, candor is our defense.”