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Researchers cancel Seibens project, cite +anonymous funding+ as problem

Sept. 19, 1996

Researchers cancel Seibens project, cite 'anonymous funding' as problem

By Lisa Zapata

Lariat Staff Writer

According to a source in the Sloan administration who wished to remain anonymous, a proposed research study of the possibility of changing the Baylor journalism program funded by associates of the Harold W. Siebens Foundation in Dallas has been canceled.

Dr. Larry Chonko, marketing professor, and Dr. Michael Mansfield, political science professor , who were both selected to conduct the research, say it is now in the hands of President Robert B. Sloan Jr.'s office.

Earlier, The Lariat reported that the money to support the research project was donated by the Harold W. Siebens Foundation, an arch-conservative organization that monetarily supports several right-wing media associations.

However, in news reports last week, Sloan said the money was donated by an anonymous donor and not the Siebens Foundation. In a faculty senate meeting Tuesday, Sloan said the money was donated by Stewart Siebens.

In a letter to Sloan obtained by The Lariat , Mansfield and Chonko said, 'It is clear now that the sponsor of this project wishes to remain anonymous. While we understand and appreciate that many donors to Baylor, and to other universities, may very legitimately wish to remain anonymous in their giving, there may be cause for concern when that anonymity is applied to academic research projects ... Sponsor anonymity reduces the opportunities for objective assessment of research results.'

In the letter, Chonko and Mansfield wrote that they had no ideological agenda, and one of the reasons the research project was being canceled was that defending it would take precedence over the research itself.

They said the purpose of the project was to determine whether to 'expand and enhance training opportunities for students in communication and journalism.'

Chonko and Mansfield wrote that their intentions were not to undermine their colleagues by contacting constituencies that would not meet the communications studies and journalism departments' 'approval and participation.'

In a letter to Chonko and Mansfield, Sloan wrote that it would be appropriate for the two of them to proceed with the project if they chose to do so.

Late Wednesday, neither Chonko nor Mansfield would comment specifically on the situation.

Sloan was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The only comment either professor would make was that the situation was in the hands of the president's office.

Professor David McHam, chair of the journalism department at Southern Methodist University and member of the Baylor Journalism Advisory Council, said, 'Baylor is an ideal place to train journalists ... But this tradition and opportunity to teach can be lost if the school gives even the slightest hint that the kind of journalism you teach leans to one side or the other of the political spectrum.'

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