Black Issues’ Wright Wins AAUP Journalism Award
Fairfax, Va. — Scott W. Wright, a senior staff writer for Black Issues In Higher Education, is the 1999 winner of the “Award for Excellence in Coverage of Higher Education,” given annually by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
Wright, who also is the editor of Black Issues’ sister publication Community College Week, won the award for an article on New York City Mayor Rudolf W. Giuliani’s attempts to dismantle remedial education within the City University of New York system.
Cheryl D. Fields, executive editor of Black Issues In Higher Education, was one of two finalists in the competition for her two-part investigative series on the dearth of African American scientists titled, “Black Scientists: Why Are There So Few?”
“This is just great,” says Frank L. Matthews, publisher of Cox, Matthews and Associates, Inc., a Fairfax-based firm that publishes Black Issues In Higher Education and Community College Week. “It exemplifies the high caliber of journalism we strive for day in and day out at our publications.
“We’re pleased and honored to have both won the award and been a finalist in the same year against some very, very tough competition,” Matthews says. “It is a reaffirmation that we are bringing our readers the best in in-depth, investigative, and analytical reporting. We also believe it takes on added significance that this recognition comes on the 15th anniversary of the founding of our publishing company.”
Titled “Remediation Woes at the City University of New York: The Story Behind the Numbers and Mayor Giuliani’s War of Words,” the award-winning article first appeared in the Feb. 23, 1998, edition of Community College Week. It documents how Giuliani turned remedial education into a political firestorm by distorting the facts about the cost and purpose of developmental courses. The story was later reprinted under the headline “The Ill-prepared and the Ill-informed” in Black Issues on March 5, 1998. ”
Fields’ 18-story series appeared in the March 19, 1998, and April 2, 1998, editions of Black Issues In Higher Education.
At the time Wright’s story appeared, four of five students attending CUNY’s senior institutions required at least one remedial course in reading, writing, or math, and 87 percent of incoming freshmen at the system’s community colleges failed at least one of three basic skills exams.
Saying remediation had watered-down the CUNY system’s academic standards, Giuliani proposed barring all students until they could pass entrance exams and turning the task of remedial education over to private companies or a separate sector of new pre-college institutions.
Giuliani had proposed abolishing all remedial work at CUNY, which is the nation’s largest urban college and university system with 11 senior institutions and six community colleges spread throughout the New York metro area.
Wright’s article raised troubling questions about Giuliani’s use of facts and figures, his motives for wanting to ban remediation, the potential impact on minority and immigrant populations, and the legality of such a move, particularly at community colleges.
It also discussed the widespread dissatisfaction with college students who arrive at the nation’s colleges and universities underprepared and the broader impact that any decision made in New York might have on the rest of the country.
“It was Scott’s attention to the national significance of New York’s battle that helped him win the award,” says Iris Molotsky, a spokeswoman for the association. “New York is not alone in having to confront this issue.
“The article was selected for Wright’s willingness to raise tough questions surrounding remediation, a politically charged subject,” she said. “His story makes clear how educational policy can easily be turned into a political battle replete with local conflicts.”
“I’m thrilled,” Wright says. “But my excitment is tempered by the knowledge that Giuliani was partially successful in his efforts to ban remediation. I believe the students and the CUNY system ultimately will suffer for that.”
Indeed, the battle over remediation in New York City continues. Although the CUNY board earlier this year banned developmental education at the system’s four-year institutions, it left intact remedial programs at its two-year colleges.
And just last month, New York Gov. George Pataki appointed Herman Badillo, Giuliani’s higher education adviser and a staunch critic of remediation, to head the CUNY system’s board of trustees (see story in BI Briefs, pg. 9).
With 44,000 members nationwide, AAUP is a nonprofit group that lobbies for academic freedom, tenure, and standards to ensure academic due process. The association has awarded the journalism award annually since 1971 for outstanding coverage of higher education exhibiting analytical and investigative reporting.
Previous media outlets that have won the AAUP award include the (Baltimore) Sun, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Seattle Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Sacramento Bee and Harper’s magazine.
Wright, 34, is a 1987 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Iowa State University. He holds bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish. Editor of Community College Week since 1997, Wright also has worked as an intern, reporter, and editor for the Des Moines Register, the Providence Journal-Bulletin, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Austin American-Statesman.
Fields has been executive editor of Black Issues In Higher Education since 1998. She holds a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Bryn Mawr College, and a master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California. She also is a former Poynter Institute of Media Studies fellow.
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