Vicente Vera is an outgoing news editor at the Spartan Daily.
Throughout my two semesters reporting on the San Jose State administration, both as a staff writer and news editor at the Spartan Daily, I had always assumed that the officials I was interviewing were giving me completely accurate information.
I realized I was wrong when I was made aware of allegations that these same officials siphoned money from donor funds that would have gone toward athletic scholarships, which the Spartan Daily reported on in Wednesday’s extra issue.
Just last week, I interviewed Athletics Director Marie Tuite for an unrelated story. During our sitdown, she bragged that she had paid for her office furniture through money raised from donors.
What she failed to mention was that according to the Spartan Foundation account, a senior woman administrator at SJSU received more than $17,000 in 2014 from that account.
The Spartan Foundation money was marketed as a student-athlete scholarship fund.
According to Tuite’s bio on the SJSU Spartans website, she was the senior woman administrator before being named athletic director.
This would have been at the same time Spartan Foundation donations were distributed to a “senior woman administrator” at SJSU.
And according to the NCAA website, there is only one senior woman administrator in each NCAA university athletic department.
An anonymous source who worked in the athletic department at the time said that at least $10,000 was spent remodeling Tuite’s office.
As a student journalist who strives to be unbiased in my reporting, I always gave officials like Tuite the benefit of the doubt when it came to accusations such as these.
I would be the one to defuse a situation involving frustrated student journalists who complained about the lack of transparency coming from some SJSU administration officials.
I vouched for administration officials on multiple occasions, but in hindsight, I was much too lenient.
My intentions of being indifferent toward them blinded me to the corruption that would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the talented reporters in our newsroom that decided to dig deeper.
As a student at SJSU, why would I want to have animosity toward figures like President Mary Papazian? She was supposed to be looking out for our best interests.
Though scholarship money started being funneled into the pockets of coaches and athletics officials well before her tenure, Papazian had the power, and frankly, the responsibility to notify donors of where their money was actually going.
Not only were about 900 students cheated out of scholarship money, according to the Spartan Daily, but this news might discourage future donors from sponsoring SJSU students.
Why would donors want to donate money to a scholarship fund that was used more like a piggy bank for administration officials rather than an actual fund to help students pay for their education?
If Papazian and Tuite wish to maintain any sort of credibility in the eyes of the student body, they should work to unseal the court case filed in the Santa Clara County Superior Court by a former Tower Foundation employee.
They should also see to it that anyone who dipped their hands into the Tower Foundation repay the money that they allegedly mishandled.
Should Papazian and Tuite fail on these two fronts, it would only be appropriate for them to step aside and allow an independent factfinder to conduct a thorough investigation of how exactly the funds were used and who was complicit in the alleged scheme.
While I don’t expect anyone to be held accountable to the alleged mishandling of about $6.3 million, it would be nice to at least have the facts out in the open.
It might make for a good case study.
Though I am beyond sad to say that I have lost confidence in the leaders of SJSU, I am even more disappointed in the fact that I was one of its biggest defenders in the newsroom.
I often told my colleagues that we were being too cynical in our approach toward certain administration officials, but I now see that we had legitimate reason to be skeptical of their intentions.
I might have lost confidence in some administration officials, I believe most people in the administration are genuinely working to improve the lives of students.
Specifically, in my interactions with Vice President of Administration and Finance Charlie Faas, I had always felt he was transparent and acting in good faith.
On the other hand, looking back on the numerous stories I’ve written based on information provided to me by officials who were complicit in the alleged mishandling of funds and its cover-up, I can’t help but feel mislead.
When Tuite scolded me for inquiring about the condition of the South Campus track last semester, she was successful in convincing me I was going about it with the wrong intentions and that there was nothing to investigate.
I tried to convince people to not take the same approach because they would receive the same intimidating response.
Enough is enough.
Tuite has lost the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that if anything is to come from the allegations that some officials mishandled millions of dollars, it is that they stop labeling student journalists as incompetent.