Any organization has a responsibility to someone. A government has a responsibility to its taxpayers, and a company has a responsibility to its shareholders. Who does Loyola have a responsibility to?
Loyola should be responsible to its students, because its students’ tuition helps fund many of Loyola’s expenses. The students’ role at Loyola is similar to a taxpayer’s role to the government, as students pay tuition in exchange for services, such as police protection and infrastructure.
An important part of this relationship is being able to hold the organization accountable. Taxpayers can request public records or call their senator. But at Loyola, a student can’t do this because Loyola is a private university.
Loyola’s lack of transparency is noticeable in the athletics department, both with students and The Phoenix.
In November, Loyola announced it would be updating Gentile Arena with brand new video boards, TVs in the concourse, a new scorers’ table and press table. A Phoenix editor asked the athletics department how much the updates had cost and was told athletics didn’t have to give an answer because “Loyola is a private school.”
The $1.4 million cost of the updates to Gentile Arena was eventually released when men’s basketball coach Porter Moser revealed the price in a radio interview with ESPN.
The renovations weren’t paid for by a donation, which means the money could have come from Loyola’s capital fund, which includes students’ tuition money. But not enough student input is taken into consideration when it comes to deciding how that tuition money is spent. The school announced Feb. 5 it would be starting another project partially funded through tuition.
Loyola announced it would be building a brand new practice facility for the basketball and volleyball teams on the Lake Shore Campus. The press release announcing the project includes who made the donation that’ll fund most of the project but doesn’t include the total cost of the project — $18.5 million — or that some money from the capital fund will be used to build the facility.
Loyola athletics deflecting the cost of such projects from press releases and The Phoenix only hurts students. The Phoenix is the voice of students, held responsible by its audience of mostly students. Failing to provide information to The Phoenix leaves the Loyola community uninformed and creates an unnecessary roadblock to informing students.
The new practice facility’s only public student input came during a community meeting in December that was attended by a small group of students. The school didn’t advertise the meeting or ask for any other student voices during the planning process.
The Phoenix, however, did ask for input on the practice facility in an unscientific online survey with 184 responses. While there were some negative reactions to the project, a majority of respondents supported it.
Most respondents believe the athletics department needs a new practice facility, that it’s okay for the school to use tuition money to build it, that Loyola investing in athletics programs positively increases their opinion of the teams and that Loyola’s athletics presence impacts their opinion of the school.
The reaction to the new facility was generally positive. If Loyola had asked for students’ opinions, they’d have had negative feedback but not enough to stop the project. Any decision the university makes affects the students, so Loyola must look for their feedback.
Issues with how the athletics department spends its money isn’t its only transparency problem.
As Loyola men’s basketball is getting the most media attention it’s received in the 21st century, The Phoenix has been pushed out. Local media outlets were given access to a practice after the team’s seventh straight win Jan. 28. The Phoenix had asked to be included when this happens, and its request was ignored.
When an athletics department official was asked why The Phoenix had been left out, he said it was because “you get more access.”
Except, this isn’t exactly true. Scheduling interviews with Moser can be difficult, and The Phoenix hasn’t talked to him one-on-one since Nov. 29. The Phoenix does have a relationship with the players and gets weekly access to them that other outlets don’t get, but if the voice of the team’s leader isn’t accessible, a complete picture of the team is harder to find.
The Phoenix has been pushed out in favor of the local and national media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, ABC7 and The Athletic.
This makes some sense — the athletics department wants more visibility and can get that from bigger publications and TV stations. However, The Phoenix has been covering the men’s basketball team since long before the team found success, only to now be moved aside.
Lack of transparency is something that students at other universities have to deal with. Students at Michigan State University (MSU) have protested how the school has dealt with the fallout from former MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s trial for allegedly abusing 265 women.
MSU’s student paper, The State News, has continued to cover the upheaval on MSU’s campus and the national effect of the Nassar case. As Loyola’s newspaper and student voice, The Phoenix will continue to push for answers on how Loyola spends its money and continue to cover the men’s basketball team’s run at an MVC championship, as well as all of Loyola’s sports, with or without the administration’s support.
The Phoenix has pointed out transparency issues with Loyola in the past. In October, the paper wrote a staff editorial pointing out problems with the Campus Safety department. Since then, communication with the department has improved. Loyola is making an effort to get better with its accountability; athletics is just one area where it’s lagged.
The attempts at correcting this problem show Loyola knows it needs to get better. Whether it’s private or not, accountability and transparency are important for any institution.