Student debt forum report

Covita Ankney

Guest Columnist

On Feb. 16, I attended the second of President Eisler’s Student Debt and Degree Completion forums. I was disappointed, and shocked, by some of the ideas put forth by the participants.

Eisler opened the meeting with some “sobering” statistics. In five years (2006 to 2011), student debt increased by 66.3 percent. At the rate of 66.3 percent every five years, in 2020 student debt will reach $90,000 or more for a bachelor’s degree at Ferris.

Groups were asked to come up with ideas for solving the high-debt and graduation-time crises. In our group, Associate Dean of Optometry Bob Buckingham lifted my book from the notebook I had been writing in and looked at my handwriting. He then elected me to be the group secretary. At that point, I wondered if my appearance set me apart, and if I was the secretary because I was a student.

As an example of the solutions that my group was suggesting, Dr. Buckingham asked, “Do we really need English? We could get rid of it as a gen ed requirement.”

The woman sitting on the other side of me said, “Liberal arts…”

He replied “yes” in a manner that suggested that the university nix liberal arts all together.

I was mortified. English is my major.

At one point, when the group discussed reducing student debt, Dr. Buckingham said something like, “The students I deal with don’t have a real problem with debt. They can’t buy their BMWs in the first couple of years, but debt really isn’t a problem for them.” (I’m sure that is almost exactly what he said, although “BMW” might have been “Porsche,” as I think about it.)

Eisler closed the meeting after getting some feedback from the groups; some interesting solutions came up. However, before we left, a woman in my group said, “I really can’t relate to these debt issues because I worked full-time when I went to college. I graduated debt-free.”

There are several possible reasons why she would have graduated without debt 15 to 20 years ago. One is that tuition as a portion of income was not as high 15 years ago; another is that federal funding was more generous to university and college students; another is that the wages for working full-time were better suited to the standard of living. It was a different world then.

To all this, I said nothing. I so regret that. After listening to my group, especially Dr. Buckingham, I wish I had suggested that administrative salaries should be capped or cut.

“Instead of chucking liberal arts, let’s chuck some administrators,” is what I should have yelled across the room. It is clear that some of them would like to take our university from educational to vocational by getting rid of courses and programs that allow us to choose successful paths and to improve our lives and by discarding campus life like we are numbers and not people. We are not numbers and we deserve education.


Wow, Covita.
I understand your emotions about having your major eliminated as a Gen. Ed. requirement, but come on!  Everything you say about Dr. Buckingham is either paraphrased or ostensibly taken out of context.  It’s one thing to be annoyed about the growing debt crisis but to take it out on someone who has ideas different from you is inexcusable.  You should have taken a step back and realized that your article is nothing more than a tirade about your own insecurities.  Frankly, Buckingham’s argument about BMWs is entirely valid.  Optometry students chose a career where they can ACTUALLY pay off their debt.  If you’re so worried about things getting expensive, pick a career where you can make some money.  And if your motivation for getting an English major is your love of the subject, then work on getting a scholarship.  Either way, it’s unfortunate that your inability to accept another person’s opinions has resulted in the dragging of a good man’s name through the mud.  Next time, consider a second draft.  Don’t they teach you that in English?
A Concerned Optometry Student

He recommended cutting English as a gen ed, not as a major. I don’t know why that offends you so much. He has a point. Out of all the gen ed requirements English probably has the least reason for being a gen ed class. Everyone uses reading and writing in every other class. You should probably take a class on deductive reasoning. He looked at your handwriting and you assumed you being appointed secretary had something to do with you being a student? This is just a guess, and I could be wrong, but did you ever consider that it had something to do with your neat handwriting? You know, since he made the comment based off looking at your handwriting… Also, for being an English major you sure have a lot of structural errors in your article (To name a few: run on sentence near the end; forgetting that parentheses go  inside the period, not after it; Not putting a comma in front of a quote). Glad your education is “paying off”. 

A brain-storming session is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group.”  I question whether the author went through the proper channels and contacted Dr. Buckingham and inquired as to whether or not these were his actual beliefs or if instead he was brainstorming and offering up spontaneous ideas.

As one that has sat in on many brain-storming sessions that have been led by Dr. Buckingham I can assure you that these are very much NOT his beliefs. It was incredibly irresponsible, dangerous, and childish to submit such a poorly crafted document containing out of context information.  The claims in the report are blatantly slanderous towards Dr. Buckingham in going so far as to suggest his removal based upon the ideas brought forth that she was personally offended by. Ideas so terrible regarding general requirements, penmanship, and student debt the details of which have been forgotten.  Whenever such an expose contains the words “I’m sure that is almost exactly what he said” the validity of every aspect of the piece must be called into question by the reader.

Hopefully the author learned her lesson after sitting through what was undoubtedly her first brain-storming session and can play the part of a grown up next time.

I’d just like to say that I am an optometry student, and I will have accumulated over $180,000 of debt by the time I graduate. Everyone has problems with debt, but depending on your profession and income, everyone will have different difficulties paying off their debt. From your paraphrasing, I am not sure you completely understood the point Dr. Buckingham was making. A profession with a higher income will mean making debt repayments easier. Am I worried about the amount of debt I will have when I graduate? Yes, I am terrified. Am I confident that the career I have chosen will help me pay off that debt? Yes, there is no doubt in my mind.

The cost of education is constantly increasing and I am, like many students, working part-time and saving money whenever and wherever I can. To give you an idea, my parents are not rich, I needed student loans to put myself through undergrad, and only now I had to ask my parents for financial help. I only buy groceries if it is on sale, and I use coupons. I eat out maybe 3 times a month tops. So believe me when I say that I understand the frustration of decreased funding and increased tuition and standard of living. I understand where you are coming from; I am also a student, we are all in the same boat.

There are a few other things I wanted to address. Have you maybe considered that you were chosen to be the secretary because you had nice penmanship or maybe that you had already been writing, readily equipped with pen and paper? Is it possible that you imagined a compliment into something else? You mentioned that the group came up with some “interesting solutions” but failed to provide any additional details; I am curious as to what those are. It seems to me that this article was written to express your own opinions without the facts, and you have selectively incorporated snippets of information out of context to prove your point. This makes me doubt the “truth, fairness, and accuracy since 1931” of The Torch. I highly encourage you to interview the participants of this brainstorming group to get their personal opinions and publish an article, and with their permission, quoting their stance on the matter. Next time, don’t be afraid to speak up and yell across the room whatever it is that’s on your mind; it may help to address your concerns before you start ruining people’s reputations. You are right, we are people, not numbers. So please be a responsible person who takes responsibility for their words and actions; they affect more people than you know.


This article seems more like an attack on Dr. Buckingham than an actual report on the student debt forum as the title states, and as a Ferris student for over five years I am disappointed to see this in the Torch.  If you are going to “quote” someone in print you should make sure that you get their comments exact, not “something like.”  It is upsetting to me to see his comments taken out of context like this, because he is one administrator who truly cares about every single student like they are his own children.  I can tell you one thing for certain, he isn’t here for the money because he could make twice as much elsewhere.

spent a few years of my life working closely with young, aspiring
writers and columnists. One common thread I found amongst naive writers
(most writers actually) is the misconceived notion that a negative
article is more poignant and crucial in garnering respect from the
writing community than a positive article. It’s become a cliche literary
technique really, and frankly that’s sad. I feel Miss. Ankney fell
victim to this, and turned the opportunity to write a positive article
about the ideas spurred at the brainstorming session, into a negative
attack on Dr.Buckingham’s character. Hopefully she can learn from her
mistake and become a better writer because of it. 


Might I suggest writing an article that actually pertains to the
title of the article? Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that in the months
that I’ve had to get to know Dr. Buckingham, I have never met an administrator
who is all about helping his students. When I
asked him to write me a letter of recommendation, he had a draft written
up within an hour. After I was awarded my scholarship, he drove 3 hours to come to my commissioning
into the Air Force on 2 day’s notice. Not only did he not hesitate when I
reached out for his help, he never complained or asked for anything in return.
That’s just Dr. Buckingham. He’s always there for his students. Its unfortunate
that you took a spontaneous idea so personally and used it as a focal point of
your attack on a man that has more character and integrity than most of the
people I have met in my life. I hope that this can be a learning experience for
you to realize that you shouldn’t use your writing to attack people without
having any justification to speak of, especially when you miss the entire point of what the article should be about.

Please remember to have some respect for the person’s opinion. Covita was one of the few – if not the only – student who actually took time to attend the student debt forum. She wrote up her opinion of how things went.

Anyone else is welcome to disagree with her, however it’s tough to understand all the negativity toward her opinion when it sounds as if no one else actually attended the event.

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Covita. More students should get involved and voice their opinions.

Since you apparently missed it Steven, the reason behind this negativity towards her opinion is her lack of respect for Dr. Buckingham’s opinions and views. She didn’t even attempt to find out what they were. Instead, she made assumptions. Anyhow, thank you for sharing your opinion on the matter Steven.

She didn’t need to attempt to find out what they were when he pretty clearly said “We could get rid of English as a gen ed.” 

That response is precisely why I see no reason to engage in any further dialog with you “guest”. You lack either the ability or the willingness to actually understand our point. Maybe you should read the article and the comments again so that you can figure out the incredible level of unintelligent comments that you are providing.

Thank you for your article, Covita. It’s of utmost importance and addresses issues that need to be hammered home far more often. It sickens me that gen ed requirements are so often thought of as unnecessary. When I was the News Editor at the Torch, I wrote this article in defense of gen eds Whether or not Dr. Buckingham’s comments were serious or just hypothetical brainstorming points, they represent a dangerous and detrimental notion that is so commonly held in our universities. Your final point, that education is being replaced with vocation, is spot on. Turning universities into businesses where profits matter more than providing students with a proper, well-rounded education, epitomizes the failings of higher education in the 21st century. And let me also say, I have a hefty amount of debt from college and grad school and it’s no light matter. It is a hindrance and I can’t understand why so many are satisfied with the status quo and the continual increasing of tuition fees. 

Thank you!  To me, it’s the fact that even if he wasn’t 100 percent serious, English would be the first gen ed to go. Judging from some of my fellow classmates who have no grasp on the English language (or just some of these comments :p ), there is no reason to even consider axing it. 

Thank you for sharing your column with the Torch Covita. Like Steven said, please remember to respect her opinion. It was very important that students become aware of this issues that have a profound effect Ferris students. I personally feel more students need to become aware of these issues and I greatly appreciate Covita sharing her opinion on this topic. I wish this happened more often. The point that Dan made about public universities becoming more like businesses and less like, well, universities, is detrimental to the future of higher education. It’s imperative we as college students pay attention to these issues and become aware of them. It’s our future and we need to put it in our hands, not let it sit in the hands of others with questionable intentions.

Again, thank you Covita for sharing your opinion with the Torch.

Jessica Smith, News Editor

The real issue is that a report on a student debt forum should not be an opinion article. There are many ways to write an article without slander and misquotation. I can also see some very valid points in Dr. Buckingham’s statements. What is the point in taking 4 years of English and general education in high school in if students are forced to retake the same subjects in college, universities could eliminate these requirements if public schools already hold students to higher standards. That could decrease the number of credits that students would need to pay for and we would still have well rounded citizens. Covita unfortunately disobeyed rules set forth in a brainstorming session and now put a stain on a otherwise sterling reputation. A article of opinion could be written at a better time, such as if the university was considering eliminating certain classes, not after a discussion with no certain ramifications to students.

Slander? Seriously? She’s hardly destroying his reputation by quoting him in a paper. If he didn’t want people to quote him, he should have been more careful about what he was saying. It’s his own fault if he looks bad because of what he said, and even so, it’s not like his career is over with because of a few careless words. 

I completely agree that there should be greater awareness on the issues that affect students, but Covita needs to discuss this issue without harming an administrator’s reputation.  I appreciate her opinion on the debt forum but the article should have stopped there and mentioned nothing about Dr. Buckingham’s “comments”.  It compromised the integrity of the article and detracted from her original complaints.  This seems to be another major problem with students these days, a quickness to blame others instead of offering up solutions.  If Covita offered up any tangible/realistic ideas I would have been much more receptive to her writing.  In times of crisis, sometimes it’s best to stop throwing stones and instead take a look in the mirror.

Dear Ms. Smith & Mr. Hamilton:

I have served as an editor of a newspaper, a yearbook, and a law journal.  As an editor, I never would have allowed Ms. Ankney’s article to go to print as written. 

In the words of Jef Mallett:

“An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it. ”

Mr. Mallett began his career right here in Big Rapids, MI creating a comic strip for the newspaper in high school.  I suggest the editors of the Torch consider Mr. Mallett’s quote whenever deciding which opinion articles should be published.  Just because something is expressed as an opinion does not absolve the editors or the author from any and all responsibility for the manner in which an opinion is expressed, the thoughts behind it, or the consequences of making an opinion heard in such a manner.


Joshua Smith-Hanen, Esq.

Those of us who have had the pleasure to work with Dr. Buckingham, in and out of brainstorming sessions, can attest to his open style that welcomes all ideas, equally. When President Eisler tasked each department with brainstorming for ideas to cut spending, I specifically remember Dr. Buckingham beginning our session with “The Rules.”  
“The Rules” entailed:
Rule 1: Every person and every idea has equal worth.
Rule 2: Do not judge other people’s suggestions! In other words, no negative comments about someone else’s ideas.
Rule 3: It is the quantity of suggestions that count, not the quality. All ideas are good!
Rule 4: Build on the ideas put forward by others. Use someone else’s model as a springboard for your own proposal.
Rule 5: Provide the concept and not the details to the concept; there will be time for details later. 
How do I remember that specific detail from several years ago? Because it impressed me and made me (a part-time employee at the time) feel like my suggestions would be welcomed and valued, and they were. 
Additionally, I’ve personally witnessed Dr. Buckingham thank our student employees for their efforts and contributions toward making the University Eye Center a better organization for all, so I find it hard to believe he would negatively exercise prejudice against a student for any reason, least of all her good penmanship. As a man who has served our country in the military, I would ascertain he was simply following President Eisler’s directions to select a secretary with legible handwriting.
Regarding Dr. Buckingham’s BMW analogy, many of us at the College of Optometry have heard his spiel that seeks to ease the minds of our students as they fall into six figure debt during their course of study at MCO. Seeing the humble man that he is (with a Toyota, not BMW) I can appreciate the way he uses humor to relax an otherwise tense conversation that could be a source of stress for many of our students and their parents.
I’ve gone head to head with Dr. Buckingham on a variety of topics and recall times when he has said some really far-fetched things to spark an idea or put things back into perspective. I truly cannot believe he would seriously suggest cutting profitable program majors at Ferris, and anyone that would believe this surely should not be SECRETLY writing a guest column article for The Torch. If Ms. Ankney would have done some legitimate research before composing her opinionated, not factual, so-called “report” she would have realize that Dr. Buckingham has been fulfilling two-plus administrative roles, for nearly two years, saving the university a bundle of money. Essentially, his salary already has been cut in half as he averages 80 hours per week, at least, filling these dual roles. Furthermore, Ms. Ankney surely was unaware that Dr. Buckingham was recently nominated for the Distinguished Staff Award by his staff because he continually gives so much of himself, personally, to MCO. 
I believe Ms. Ankney and Antonio Coleman, Torch Editor in Chief, owe Dr. Buckingham a formal apology for taking his word out of context and attempting to tarnish his impeccable reputation as an upstanding citizen of our community.


After reading your column, I feel that
the most critical issue you address is the disconnect between FSU
students and faculty in joining together to tackle issues effecting
our quality of education.

I have read a number of comments
regarding your article and I am forced to question if our voice as
students was as significant as Eisler’s debt forum as it is on this

After reading very strong arguments
from previous posts in regards to the necessity of English as a gen.
Ed, I can only hope a collective student stance such as these posts
can be made at the next Board of Trustees meeting concerning OUR

How many FSU students were aware of
the debt forum or the faculty’s suggestion to cut gen. Ed
requirements prior to this column? How many students attended the

Your article brought student awareness
to a tuition debt forum that would have otherwise only been discussed
by faculty who DON’T pay tuition at this university. Regardless of
Dr. Buckingham’s comments on gen. Ed requirements, the bigger issue
is where was the student voice to agree or disagree with any faculty
viewpoints at the forum.

I challenge everyone with an opinion
on this matter to make sure we fill the seats of these meetings just
as we do Ferris’ 5-star events and create a change in the audience of
university procedure meetings more reflective of the students they

I would like to thank everyone on
their viewpoints on this matter. However, the unanswered question is
where does our attention and collective energy as students go from

Let’s be the leaders at Ferris we hope
to continue to be in life.


Antonio Coleman

Editor in Chief

Antonio Coleman,
“Regardless of Dr. Buckingham’s comments on gen. Ed requirements, the bigger issue is where was the student voice to agree or disagree with any faculty viewpoints at the forum.” I can answer your question as to where the student opinion was on this matter. She was sitting right in the group that Dr. Buckingham was in. Instead of voicing her opinion to the group to offer a student’s perspective, she bad mouthed a highly regarded administrator in her column. She did this while offering loose “quotes” without providing the context. To the uninformed reader, this makes Dr. Buckingham look like a terrible individual. To anyone associated with Dr. Buckingham from the College of Optometry, we know her opinion is laughable because it is definitely not portraying Dr. Buckingham as the man we know he is. I am disappointed that the “Editor in Chief” of this newspaper has chosen to neglect what all of the negative criticism is pointing to. This isn’t about the forum at all. This is about the level of disrespect that was shown to someone that has more than earned his right to be treated with respect, honor, integrity, and accuracy. If you are going to brush it off to the side and act like it didn’t happen, then that speaks volumes to the “Truth, Fairness, and Accuracy” the Torch has supposedly provided since 1931.

The integrity of this newspaper is put into question anytime an article is allowed to be published that features quotes from any person, much less a prominent figure in Ferris’s academic community, without their consent or without the author of an article identifying themselves as a journalist. Lastly, the remark regarding Dr. Buckingham’s disdain for the liberal arts: “He replied ‘yes’ in a manner that suggested that the university nix liberal arts all together,” is conjecture in the most absurd of forms. Ms. Ankney’s libelous and unethical article would likely have resulted in disciplinary actions and a retraction, potentially resulting in her termination, at a major news organization.

In  addition to his position as the Associate Dean, Dr. Buckingham serves as the Associate Dean of Student and Academic Affairs for the Michigan College of Optometry. Under him the Admissions Committee for the school requires any applicant without a Baccalaureate degree have two semesters of English and at least nine credits of Humanities courses. As a medical professional school, requirements for applicants with a Baccalaureate are strictest in regards to Science courses with the understanding that major colleges and universities require comparable liberal arts general education requirements.

An article of such a personally charged nature clearly can not be objective. With Dr. Buckingham’s aforementioned academic track record, comments attributed to him suggesting the contrary were undeniably taken out of context, not to mention deplorably ill-gotten.

Recently the Big Rapids Pioneer fell under ridicule because a Valentine’s Day article was printed which severely offended many readers.  To rectify the situation, the Editor of the Pioneer personally contacted the families of the children quoted in the article to apologize and printed a formal apology in the next issue.  It is unfortunate that the university newspaper is unable (or unwilling) to accept responsibility for this offensive writing and follow the Pioneer’s forthright example.

Good god, this writer did nothing wrong! Where is the harm in quoting an individual at an open meeting? It’s not as if she were poking around in the bushes outside his house to try and overhear a juicy quote; he was speaking at a public meeting. There is nothing unethical about that. Why should the newspaper apologize for reporting what someone said? It’s pretty hard to take the sentence “Do we really need English? We could get rid of it as a gen ed requirement” out of context. It’s pretty straightforward what he was suggesting and there is no reason to apologize for reporting that someone said something to make himself look like a fool. His fault.

Ediotr in Chief Coleman:

Dr. Buckingham is an administrator and I am a student leader.  We do not have a disconnect at all.  We actively work to tackle issues impacting students and enjoy open communication in that regard.  This apparent disconnect you mention is not the issue and is not what is actually written in above-mentioned article.  The issue of where was the student voice at the debt forum might have been a fine article to include in the Torch; however, that is not the article which was written or included. 

The issue is the Torch published an opinion article, which is inaccurately titled a “report”, which makes statements and implications of a negative nature about a highly-respected and dedicated administrator of the Michigan College of Optometry and Ferris State University and it never should have been published as written.

I am shocked and appalled that the Editor in Chief, the current News Editor and the past News Editor of the Torch persist in praising the inclusion of the article.  Collectively, you attempt to point to issues, which, at best, are only tangentially raised by the article, and attempt to dodge the central issue.  While you are attempting to shirk responsibility for including it as written in the Torch by defending it as opinion and describing it as raising important issues, what you should be doing is writing a formal apology for inclusion in the Torch and contacting Dr. Buckingham to personally apologize for its inclusion.   That is what a responsible Editor in Chief of a newspaper would do under these circumstances.


Joshua Smith-Hanen, Esq.

I find it ironic the editor is applauding the writer for sparking a debate about debt, when most of the discussion on this board has been specifically directed at the attack of Dr. Buckingham in the article.  To add to the irony, Dr. Buckingham’s comment about dropping certain general education requirements within certain programs in a school with its roots in vocational studies with the aim of reducing the burden on students, is entirely more relevant than an article that parades as a report to a debt forum when in fact it is nothing more than a personal attack.  I’m not trying to blow smoke up anyone’s anything, but at least applaud Dr. Buckingham as well.

Additionally, does the editor find it to be ethical journalism practice to quote, or worse paraphrase, someone in an article they had no knowledge they were being critiqued for?  Did the writer use her excellent handwriting to write down the Dr. Buckingham quotes perfectly?  In the words of Sara Palin, “That’s gotcha journalism.” or at least that’s what I think she says.  I think a prudent journalist, or an editor for that matter, would have referenced Dr. Buckingham as “an administrator” or perhaps “an administrator from MCO” especially without that person’s knowledge of the article.

Maybe if they didn’t drop that ethics general education requirement a couple of years ago with the idea of saving students money the editor and writer would have known.  Yeah… Dr. Buckingham, that wasn’t as good an idea as I thought.

I appreciate the desire to vouch for Dr. Buckingham, who clearly has made a significant impact on many people. He must do an excellent job for the students he serves.

I also continue to read the comments, wondering how people who did not attend the forum have such strong knowledge that this student “Guest Columnist” (who is in fact not a journalist) is so completely off base with her own opinions. An opinion is that – it is this writer’s interpretation of how things went during this event. She has as much right to her opinion on the situation as anyone else – she was there.

At the end of the day, I see this as a student who was at least willing to engage in the issue. Unlike so many others…. 

Did u attend the event? Or were u one of the “many others”? Also, perhaps low attendance reflects poor advertisement rather than lack of interest or unwillingness to “engage in the issue”.

We all have a written email by Dr. Buckingham with accounts in context and that dispute her reaction. You weren’t there either and opinions, while usually welcome, are no longer welcome when they become slander. If the article wants to be a opinion of a administrator maybe the article should have been titled “My Opinion on a Administrator and a couple of things he might have said”  rather than a report on the student debt forum. 

I was not there.  And I will not attempt to indicate that what anyone saw or heard during the forum is accurate or not.
Perhaps that e-mail should be posted here or submitted to the Torch as a response. Dr. Buckingham was there. His perspective would be helpful here.

As for slander, I believe you would mean libel (written slander). And in this case I don’t see anything remotely libelous.

In my opinion this article is a blatant attack on Dr. Buckingham’s character, and portrays him in a very negative  light which is exactly opposite the person that he is.  I don’t see how a retraction to this “article” hasn’t been written yet, or an apology issued.  I have lost all respect for the Torch as a news provider.

Mr. Fox:
It is my understanding you are educated in journalism and communication.  You are not educated in law.  Therefore, I find it hard to comprehend how you find yourself qualifed to reach legal conclusions as to this matter and boldly declare: “And in this case I don’t see anything remotely libelous.”  You lack the training, expertise, or ability to reach such a legal conclusion.  On one hand, you wisely state you won’t put yourself out on a limb and support these false statements as true; however, you still find yourself able to reach a bold and definitive legal conclusion, which you have no basis in law or fact to reach. 

If you would like to further educate yourself regarding libel, you may want to review M. Civ JI 118 et. seq. and consult an attorney licensed in the State of Michigan regarding the actual meaning of libel and how potential grounds for a libel claim may exist in this case.  This may help you in understanding the law better and in better advising the editorial staff of the Torch.
Furthermore, you failed to acknowledge the comments of a highly respected faculty member and leader of the optometric community, Dr. Mark Swan, in regards to the ethics of Journalism and the ethical values of Ferris State University, which is disappointing.  Basic legal standards are a floor not a ceiling as to the proper action of persons in our society.  You failed to even comment on the points regarding ethics in journalism.  Instead, you called for the person being attacked by the article to enter the fray of comments being posted – that’s ridiculous.  I undertand you pride yourself on helping young writers reach their full potential.  Although I respect you and encourage you in regards to helping young writers reach their full potential, you must admit that you failed in regards to that goal as to this article.  I respectfully disagree with your present actions of defending the publishing of this article and disregarding the seriousness of the comments being made here.  I urge you to reconsider your thoughts as to this matter.  Your lack of reasonableness in regards to this matter as well as the lack of reasonable actions on the part of the editorial staff of the Torch is surprising. Perhaps, in time, you and the editorial staff of the Torch will be able to accept the fact that you made a mistake and should apologize for it.  Instead of being defensive about this matter, your time would be better spent counseling the editorial staff of the Torch in regards to the ethics of journalism, the importance of critically analyzing the articles which are published, and advancing responsible journalism here on our campus.  Please take this opportunity to discuss the ethical matters of journalism with the editorial staff of the Torch and with your students.Best regards,Joshua Smith-Hanen, Esq.   

Thank you for your input.

As the faculty adviser to the Torch, I will make sure any and all potentially libelous material is discussed. I will also be sure to follow up with the Michigan Press Association legal hotline and/or the Student Press Law Center legal hotline any time there is a potentially libelous situation regarding the Torch.Members of the Torch staff continue to monitor these comments and discuss the situation. They received one potential Letter to the Editor that was then revoked by the writer a short time after sending it. If anyone else would like to comment on this situation in the next print edition, reader feedback is always welcome.

OK, mister fancy pants, I’m pretty sure Mr. Fox knows what libel is since he’s been teaching journalism longer than you have had a functioning brain. Being condescending and uppity is really not helping your case. And unless you can prove the quotes in the article were not actually said, have fun trying to label this as libel….

^^^  trying to fight and losing miserably to much much much smarter people

I’ll give you credit for one thing Steven. The Torch certainly has a lot of pride, as misguided as it may be. I am astounded that you actually suggested that Dr. Buckingham’s e-mail be posted so that his perspective could be provided. You finally admit (whether you intended to or not) that Dr. Buckingham’s perspective was not provided in this poorly written and “edited” article which ended up being almost entirely about Dr. Buckingham. That has been one of our main arguments that you and your staff have been so stubbornly ignoring. I suppose it makes sense that if an adviser at the Torch can be so stubborn when it comes to admitting a mistake, then how can we expect much more from the staff and writers at the Torch?

You only have to read the article.  Ms. Ankney only shared a single opinion,
     “Instead of chuck­ing lib­eral arts, let’s chuck some admin­is­tra­tors,”
There were a few facts sprinkled throughout the article, but the majority of her article was spent disparaging the comments of others and sharing hear-say information (She even mentioned in her article that the quote was not verbatim, so how can she use the quote?). 

Ms. Ankney certainly has the right to her opinion, but others have a right to their opinion, as well.  Furthermore, they have the right to have their opinion accurately reported (the first element of the journalist’s Code of Ethics).  Ms. Ankney writes “It is clear that some of them would like to take our uni­ver­sity from edu­ca­tional to voca­tional…” she is telling the community what she thinks other participant’s opinions are.  Freedom of speech does not include freedom to speak for others.  Especially when this information is taken from a brainstorming session (as described by Joshua earlier) which is designed to be a forum for working through all scenarios, good and bad.

I do not recall reading any of the comments suggesting that Ms. Ankney should not have her opinion to “…chuck some administrators…” or “…that administrator salaries should be caped or cut.”, even though she provides no evidence or logical explanation for how this might help student debt.

The shame in this matter is that it all could have been avoided with just a little editing by the Editor in Chief.  Simply removing any reference to a particular person’s name or title would have made the article innocuous, although still inaccurate.  Some very simple edits could have helped this author clarify her objectives for the article and present the issue to the community in a beneficial way.

Mark Swan, OD, MEd, FAAO

Regardless of whether or not this was an opinion, the fact remains that the student misquoted, quoted out of context, and did not provide the main subject of her article with the knowledge that she would be quoting brainstorming ideas put forth as his opinion in a piece that is available to the student and faculty population, community, and other interested professionals. This is still, without question, an unprofessional and misguided attemp at journism that put opinion in print to be perceived as fact.

Steven, you are missing the point.  Covita is just as free to express her opinions as the rest of us are.  That is the beauty of living in the United States.  However, when she begins to comment on the motivations and character of an administrator instead of the student debt forum, I question the legitimacy of her work.  Even still, it is the responsibility of the editing crew at the Torch to eliminate this sort of material if they expect anyone to take their publication seriously.  The Torch owes Dr. Buckingham an apology and the Editor of the paper should write a retraction, not because of what Covita wrote, but rather because of their inability to properly screen this material.  

Why should they offer a retraction? Because they quoted someone and made him look bad? Yeah, sounds like that writer did a real bad thing….. Oh, I guess now that I think of it, he may have said Porsche instead of BMW, so yeah this article is total libel

Why should they ask people before quoting them? If you heard President Eisler seriously say in a staff meeting that he was planning on doubling tuition next year, wouldn’t you want to know? There’s no reason to be tiptoeing around, not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. We have a right to know what’s going on in this school and asking if you can quote someone’s unintelligent statement would lead to people denying and rephrasing their comments. 

 Editor in Chief Coleman,
I am a faculty member at the Michigan College of Optometry, I serve on the editorial board of one journal and on the peer-review board of four others.  I am greatly disturbed and annoyed at the article that you permitted to be published and that you are defending.  This article has serious flaws in structure and content and would never have been permitted in a serious publication.

It is one thing for a student to allow their emotion to get the best of them and post personal opinion on Facebook or their personal blog.  However, it is quite another thing when they act as a journalist and take on the responsibility of speaking for the student body and the Torch.

It was your responsibility to mentor this incompetent journalist and to protect the reputation of the Torch.  In this matter you have certainly had a lapse in judgement.  This article violates no less than seven of the principles of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics (  Additionally, it violates several of the elements of the Bulldog Values Statement ( and the core values of Ferris.

The actions of this “journalist” in not identifying herself as a reporter and quoting out of context will serve to squelch the open sharing of ideas.  Every faculty member and administrator who does want to work with students and does value their opinion will now have to think, “Am I going to be misrepresented for sharing my ideas by some student who is surreptitiously documenting my comments.”  Keep in mind comments are not necessarily an opinion and are often used very effectively in brainstorming sessions.

It is not a restriction of free speech to make sure what someone writes is accurate.

Mark Swan, OD, MEd, FAAO

She’s not a journalist and doesn’t pretend to be. It clearly states that she’s a guest writer, so don’t try and take out your anger out on her by whining about her not being a good writer. Grow up.

Dear Ms. Ankney:

Your opinions regarding the importance of English and Liberal Arts education are one’s which I largely support.  I am a third year optometry student, who graduated from a liberal arts college with honors in history.  I completed all pre-optometry science related course work as well.  I graduated from law school and am a licensed attorney.  I will soon be a doctor of optometry as well.  I strongly support a well-rounded complete education for all.  However, the way in which you decided to write your article does nothing to advance that point in an effective manner.  In fact, your commentary regarding Dr. Buckingham distracts from your point and paints an untrue picture of him. 

Dr. Buckingham is a dedicated and respected administrator.  He is a strong advocate for students.  He cares deeply about Ferris.  He donates his time and his money to help students.  He is currently doing the work of two administrators, which means he is often in his office working for the betterment of students late into the night. 

The next time you decide to write about a man you might want to take some additional time to figure out who you are writing about and what kind of a person he is.  This becomes all the more important when you decide to publish your writing.  Please consider whether the inclusion of comments made by anyone at an open forum really should be referenced or whether the inclusion of such comments advance your point.  Furthermore, I suggest you be much more careful in the use of quotation marks and consider the importance of including the context in which comments are made.


Joshua Smith-Hanen, Esq. 

If the Torch started only using quotes after researching someone’s character to make sure they were consistent with how that person usually acts, they would lose all honesty and integrity as they would be too busy picking through quotes to make sure that even though someone is “dedicated and respected,” they never quote him saying something flippant and thoughtless. It’s ludicrous to say that because someone is a good person, they shouldn’t quote an off-hand comment he made. 

This article makes it sound like Dr. Buckingham and the woman sitting next to the writer were the only people at the student debt forum.  It makes me sick to see the Torch would even allow such an article to be published that negatively targets a single person like this. By the title of the article, I would assume that the reader would actually get some useful information about the conclusions made at the meeting.  It sounds like the writer lost sight of what the purpose actually was, and she decided to take tid-bits of quotes to negatively reflect a single person at the forum.  The last time I checked, Dr. Buckingham wasn’t running against Romney for President, so what exactly is the reason for this slanderous attack?

I fully support the comments pointing out the flaws of this article as being an “opinion rant” rather than a forum report. I wholeheartedly appreciate and have learned from my English classes in my undergraduate experience and high school, and distinctly remember a main point that is driven home in all English courses is that your paper should have a common theme and stick to that theme. This article is not at all related to its title, nor does it have a common thread to which the reader can grasp. It jumps from one opinion to another and haphazardly includes what very clearly seems to be misrepresented “quotes”. Forgive me, but when a quote is followed with “I’m sure that is almost exactly what he said although “BMW” might have been “Porsche,” as I think about it”  a reader does not deem the quote as valid but rather a poorly recalled paraphrase. Furthermore, I do not believe the out of context quote on nixing English gen eds is as appalling as it was made out to be. As the purpose of the meeting was to gather ideas (not opinions) about how to reduce student debt, I feel that mentioning the thought of questioning how many gen ed requirements a university should provide brings up a valid, ever present argument. If you had included some student body opinion on the matter, I am quite certain you would find the majority of students in favor of decreasing the number of required gen eds and instead allowing some of the courses to be optional. I distinctly remember a majority of students complaining about this specific topic during my undergraduate schooling. If some gen eds were made optional, students that have an appropriate background in specific gen eds would then not have to pay a few hundred dollars for each credit, thereby reducing the students’ debt. However, the students who do struggle in specific areas can choose to take the classes in order to better themselves and further their value as a future employee/employer. This makes much more sense for the sole reason that students who personally choose to take a course for their own personal betterment put forth a substantially increased amount of work in the course as compared to when they take a required course. A closing comment would be to also point out the oddity of clearly naming Dr. Buckingham with his full title of the Associate Dean of Optometry and then quoting another attendee of the forum as “a women in my group”. Although it may not have been Ms. Ankney’s goal to slander Dr. Buckingham, it most assuredly calls in a large amount of suspicion when a sole individual is referenced by name, title, and in association with a particular college when other individuals present at the meeting are allowed to retain their anonymous status. 

This article lacks any factual basis and is written solely on heated opinion, clearly by a ‘journalist’ who lacks ethics and professional integrity. It immediately makes the reader wonder, was this an attempt to sully a good, caring, professional mans reputation because the writer was offended by being nominated for secretorial work? Or, would the writer have been so offended that she felt the need to write such an inflammatory, baseless article if the idea put forth had been to do away with a gen ed not so near and dear to her major, like math? How about the health/phys ed/recreation requirement? It would appear based on the article that the writer took something Dr. Buckingham said personally (and likely out of context, based on the content of her “report”) and decided to make her articles mission to slander an administrator and depict his “kind” as the problem. The Torch should be ashamed of both the writer and themselves for allowing this article be published, lest they lose their credibility to claim “truth, fairness, and accuracy.”

Comments are closed.