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Our view: Why we aren’t reporting on our former adviser’s claim of wage discrimination

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Today, a former adviser to The Daily explained via Facebook her recent decision to leave the Student Media department. As journalists who care not only about the quality of the work we produce, but the state of the community in which we live and work, The Daily’s editorial board wants to address its collective decision not to report on this situation.

Judy Gibbs Robinson, an adviser to The Daily for 11 years and a professor in Gaylord College, retired from both positions in early January under OU’s early retirement initiative. The retirement was a surprise to us as students, and many of the circumstances around it remain gray for us.

Today, we, alongside many of you, read about some of those circumstances in a Facebook post from Judy where she said she chose to leave Student Media because of wage inequality she believes was gender-based. We want to address that post because, while The Daily’s staff is made up of students who had no knowledge or control over the alleged wage inequality issue Judy’s post raises, this situation inherently involves us as journalists and our department as a whole.

While we would normally pursue stories about alleged pay inequity on the basis of gender, The Daily has chosen not to report on Judy’s situation for a number of reasons.

Judy was an adviser to most of us for the entirety of the time we’ve worked at The Daily and gave many of us our first introduction to journalism. She drew us into this place, teaching and guiding us as we grew here, and we are far better for having known and worked with her. There are few of us who weren’t impacted by Judy’s work in our time at OU, and we feel, as journalists who believe in the strength of unbiased reporting, that none of us could tackle this story with the distance it deserves.

Additionally, Judy’s situation, while presented straightforwardly in her post, involves several years’ worth of complicated interpersonal and professional context that goes far beyond any of our understanding. Some of us have firsthand personal knowledge of what went on in those years, but on a professional and official level, we currently have only a piece of a much larger picture.

The Daily is a student-run news organization where students make all content decisions, but we also operate under a staff of professional, non-student staff in the Student Media department. Within that staff, we have advisers and a Student Media director. Judy, our second adviser and Student Media director Nick Jungman are among the few who know the full situation, and are not at full liberty to share all of the details with us. Since this situation is what the university defines as a personnel issue, Nick Jungman is not able to give us any information surrounding Judy’s post, and has referred us to Public Affairs for comment — a process we would go through if we were reporting on any other department. Public Affairs has not yet answered a request for comment.

We are simultaneously too close to the story and too far from its full context to do Judy’s situation justice, but we know enough details to tell you a few things.

Judy’s retirement and issues around pay are not related to the new administration or any actions on its behalf; it is contained within Student Media and Gaylord College. It is also difficult to reduce these issues to a black-and-white example of sexism or wage discrimination, as many factors were at play in the wage system between Gaylord and Student Media. While Judy is female and our second adviser is male, there were also differences in their teaching loads, roles as faculty and staff and positions within Student Media that inherently affected their salaries in different ways.

There are many issues and claims here we as students can’t speak to, so we won’t try to. We publish this not to undermine any claims that have been made or to try to speak for our department, but to tell our community why, as the campus newspaper dedicated to reporting on issues like these, we feel unable to pursue this story. As always, we want to seek full transparency and honesty about what goes on in our newsroom and department, while acknowledging our own status as students and humans.

If you have questions or comments regarding this situation, you can reach us at dailyeditor@ou.edu, or anonymously through the Google Form below.

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