No Accuracy for Rosa

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

Earlier this week Accuracy in Academia called out Campus Progress associate editor and blogger Erin Rosa for attempting to characterize the contributors to CampusReform, a social network site designed by the Leadership Institute, as conservative bullies.

Several hours later Rosa responded to our critique, writing that “Recent reporting by Campus Progress on a new conservative social networking website has apparently stuck in the craw of another right-leaning group dedicated to exposing ‘political bias’ in education.”

“In fact, Accuracy In Academia—a sister organization to Accuracy In Media, a longstanding nonprofit that specializes in firing flak against the perils of ‘liberal media’ reporting—even dedicated an entire 950-word article to Campus Progress and myself,” she writes. “But unfortunately, for a website dedicated to ‘accuracy,’ there are a few distortions and convenient omissions that need to be addressed.”

Among Rosa’s complaints are that AIA did not

a)  mention that Toni Listi—who had stated on his profile that he was active on CampusReform to “smash left-wing scum”—was in fact a staff member at this organization,

b)  that this correspondent “made no attempt to contact” Rosa for “information regarding the ‘left-wing scum’ posting” or a “comment supposedly left by a student in Indiana” regarding professor Kenneth Johnson, and

c)  that this correspondent has criticized Rosa for using the most recent (2008) Leadership Institute Form 990 when reviewing how much money LI has used to promote conservative campus causes.

Ironically, Rosa made no attempt herself to contact this correspondent to respond to these “distortions and convenient omissions” prior to blogging about the topic on the Campus Progress website.

This correspondent should have mentioned that Listi is one of 11 campus services coordinators working for the Leadership Institute, an accidental rather than purposeful omission. The information has been added to the original column.

When asked via email whether “anyone at LI asked Toni Listi to remove the phrase ‘smash left-wing scum’ from his profile,” CampusReform New Media Director Adrienne Royer responded via email that

“In reference to the activity logs, we maintain an open forum. We won’t edit or censor comments unless they violate the terms of use or are flagged by another user.”

Regardless of whether Listi works for CampusReform or not, his controversial statement was removed from his profile. CampusReform’s national director Bryan Bernys told Rosa that he was originally unaware of this comment; it is not, therefore, likely to be considered organizational policy.  “I don’t know about that comment,” Rosa quoted Bernys in her original article. “I don’t know where that is on the site or anything…Nobody at CampusReform can go through every single post.”

In her Oct. 27 response Rosa complains that this correspondent critiqued her reporting for using a more recent Form 990. Not so. “Campus Progress was referencing the most recent 2008 tax returns from the Leadership Institute in its reporting (hence, the ‘just last year’ citation in the copy.),” writes Rosa “Perhaps the author doesn’t realize that it’s 2009 now? The facts in our feature were, and are, correct.”

In order to make a comparison between the finances at the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Leadership Institute, it seemed most appropriate that the financial data come from an identical year. As can be seen by these screencaps, CAP’s 2008 Form 990 is not yet available on Guidestar. Both organizations do have comparable data available for 2007.

Perhaps by focusing on which year these tax forms were published Rosa intends to sidestep the larger critique: Campus Progress is also a multi-million dollar project and performs many of the same campus activities sponsored by the Leadership Institute, albeit for progressive, not conservative causes.

The same goes for Rosa’s excerpted student review of University of Southern Indiana professor Johnson. “Here is the text of the comment supposedly left by a student in Indiana,” writes Rosa.

“He continually spouts out that we (the students) are sponges that just sit there and absorb what we are told. We do not think, ever. He continually degrades the Bible. He says that since society today uses it as a source so often, it’s the easiest one to use as a reference in class to disprove/discount.”

Rosa’s original expose only utilized four words out of the 56-word rating—providing no context for the student’s perspective—and failed to mention that Prof. Johnson had, in fact, taught Biblical Literature the previous year. In order to understand the surrounding context of this student’s comments, the reader presumably needs to see the original review and what the professor might have done to provoke such a response. Rosa provided neither.

“Although these factual errors and distortions were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to Accuracy in Academia’s ‘reporting’ on this issue, I assume that the group, being dedicated to ‘accuracy,’ will issue a public correction soon,” writes Rosa. Will Rosa also be including our contravening evidence in her next article?

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.