Silence isn’t always a virtue

The flow of information is a wonderful thing.

But students and employees at this University are now forced to look back fondly to the days when information flowed at all.

It’s been a full four weeks since University President Bruce Speck accepted an interview request from this newspaper. Under the guise of a newly-enforced media policy, our president has disappeared from sight and continues shirking responsibilities normally associated with a school leader.

His policy, and continued rejection of all interview requests, has drawn national attention. The Student Press Law Center called on Speck to rescind the “short-sighted” and “harmful” policy. Rod Surber, Speck’s new mouthpiece, said the president has no plans to do so.

It’s gotten to a point well beyond ridiculous. Speck is no longer acting, or even resembling, a university president. He was hired to be the public face and leader of a public institution. For a month now, he has failed miserably at this.

We have followed, with no choice, the newly-enforced media policy. Every phone call to Speck’s office is immediately referred to Surber. We call Surber to schedule interviews with Speck. Speck, every single time, rejects them.

Among the topics we wanted to know about last week, but Speck refused to comment on: the media policy, the reopening of a search for vice president for academic affairs and whether or not Speck tried to cut and run after a no-confidence vote last November by applying at another university.

This week we wanted to get a reaction from this school’s president on a unanimous decision by a Kansas City medical school not to partner with Southern to bring a branch school to Joplin. Speck has pushed this partnership for a year, and when things were looking up, he always had something to say about the proposal. But Tuesday, when the 14-0 vote came down from Kansas City, Speck was nowhere to be seen, and unavailable for comment. We asked Surber for an interview with Speck, to get his thoughts on the vote, and how he planned to lead this institution forward as alternatives are considered. Instead we were told Speck would be unavailable, and that Surber didn’t know why.

That’s not leadership, that’s juvenile.

It’s time for the Board of Governors to decide whether Bruce Speck — or Rod Surber — will speak for this University.