Who is Norm Arkans?

Norm Arkans is Associate Vice President for Communications at the University of Washington.  He is responsible for working with the media in all its forms. Our mission is to broaden public awareness and understanding of the University of Washington, including its innovations in education; contributions to solving regional, national and worldwide problems; and discoveries and breakthroughs that improve the quality of life in the Northwest and around the globe.

Norm Arkans is head of the UW’s Office of Media Relations and Communications

My biggest concern is that Mr. Arkans’ activities are not overseen by the Faculty Senate.  In effect we have a Minister of Propaganda whose activities curtail the free speech that should be part of the central function of the faculty.

Arkans’ job title may seem innocuous but it is not.  In his role, Arkans acts as an internal censor, controlling communications on and off campus .  As far as I can tell, all UW publications go through his hands.  He is, I believe, the main reason the UW lacks a public medium for discussion among faculty and staff.. a blog or newsletter that is not  controlled by Arkans and his public relations staff.

As someone who is very proud of our faculty, I think the lack of a public voice for the faculty is a major reason that the UW lags behind other major state research universities in support from our business community.  Why would you donate money to a university that does nothing to acknowledge the man achievements of its faculty over the 150 years of our existence?  If you are interested, read Arkans’ view of the 150 Year Timeline for UW
CaptureAchievements.  Nobel Prizes?, the art of Bill Holm and Jacob Lawrence?  the writing of Charles Johnson. the poetry of Theodore Roethke? Belding Scribner’s invention of the artificial kidney?

Some of the roles of the Associate Vice President for Communications are very worrisome.  For example:

  •  Mr. Arkans oversees the UW’s office for Public Records.  This means he gets to edit what does and does not get released in response to a Public Records Request.  There is no appeal to his decisions and no public or faculty oversite over his process. 
  • Mr. Arkans sits on the board of KUOW, a supposedly independent organization.  In that role,especially as the sole representative of the station’s license holder, the UW, Arkins has immense power.  Notably, KUOW rarely reflects the diversity of opinions and expertise present on the UW Campus.
  • Most recently, as reported in the Seattle Times, Mr. Arkans played a central role in the effort by KUOW to buy out and silence its rival station, KPLU.  The deal negotiated by Mr. Arkans would pay Pacific Lutheran University $8 million dollars.

These $8 million were contributed by KUOW’s listeners, presumably because we think we are supporting the UW’s station’s programming.   

Worse, the deal included closing KPLU’s very active news room, making the UW (and Mr. Arkans ) the sole academic voice from Vancouver, Canada to Vancouver ,Washington. It is hard to  imagine much listener support for KUOW  building an empire and eliminating competition. 

There are also major issues about how KPLU and KUOW raise money for these “public” stations.   KPLU President Thomas Krise worked hard to keep the deal secret, presumably because he hoped to have his private school benefit from moneys it raised from the public to build KPLU facilities it will now keep. As for the UW, I wonder how the legislature feels about UW funds being used in this way?

“They conspired to mislead the public,” said Carol Mac­Kinnon, a University Place attorney and longtime KPLU supporter. “It’s outrageous, especially in a public-radio context. They’re supposed to be stewards of the public trust.”

The tile of the job might be more appropriately Associate Vice President for Propaghanda.  


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