Misinformation pervades in coverage of Dahl's departure

Geneseo President Christopher Dahl will soon step down from his post to take a nine-month leave before his tenure as college president officially ends in June 2014. This move has drawn criticism from some students, who are upset that Dahl is receiving a full year’s pay to essentially go on a vacation. In reality, Dahl’s time away from Geneseo will be anything but a vacation. Dahl is slated to work on three “work assignments” over the course of the next nine months. He will be advising Interim President Carol Long and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher as well as completing advancement projects with alumni and donor networks. On top of that, he will embark on three separate scholarly projects related to his work in the English department – not exactly a vacation in the traditional sense of the term.

If students were more aware of what Dahl’s leave entailed – which is not a sabbatical to begin with; more on that later – they might not be so quick to criticize this move. Bob Lonsberry posted a story on WHAM 1180’s website denouncing Dahl’s leave as irresponsible, incorrectly referring to the leave as a sabbatical and calling it a “$300,000 parting gift.”

Lonsberry’s piece is not just factually incorrect; it is recklessly poor journalism. The facts about Dahl’s leave are available to those who seek them out. If Lonsberry had even a modicum of journalistic integrity, he would have talked to Dahl directly before writing such a blatantly false article.

Because of Lonsberry’s misreporting, students have been putting Dahl on blast across social media. Students were quick to judge the editorial without considering the veracity. But ultimately, it is not the students’ fault for their appropriate reactions. If what he had reported was true, students would have every reason to be upset.

It probably did not help that school administrators referred to Dahl’s leave of absence as a sabbatical either, since the initial announcement in March. Under the definition put forth by the State University of New York Board of Trustees, employees must return for one full year following the completion of their sabbatical.

Rather, Dahl’s leave of absence is classified as a Title F Leave, which does not require his return upon completion. This type of leave is granted for professional development or other projects “consistent with the needs and interests of the University.”

With Dahl advising Long and Zimpher, not to mention working side by side with alumni and donor networks, we recognize that he will be doing plenty to serve Geneseo, despite his absence from campus.