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Dr. Natalicio, what does UTEP stand for?

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05

Dear Dr.  Diana Natalicio,

What does UTEP stand for? Academics or athletics? Students at large or student athletes? Morals or money? Student development or athletic success? In recent days, the answers to these questions have become unclear. It is critical these questions be addressed in an open forum, where all students' voices are heard.

Last week, two student athletes were caught in an alleged drug-related incident when the odor of marijuana was reported to the campus police and where narcotic paraphernalia was found. So far, the punishments for these violations have only been "indefinite suspensions" from their athletic team even though in an interview Jan. 25 after practice, head coach Keitha Adams admitted "the two players that were involved in the situation were suspended." UTEP Athletics and university officials have hidden the cause of their suspension under the general and vague excuse of "violation of team rules."

We published an article on the incident in the Jan. 24 issue of The Prospector. As expected, it caused quite a bit of controversy around the university and the city of El Paso. It created a media buzz, but due to the university's obvious efforts to hide the story, we were the only media outlet to confirm the story and publish it.

The method we used to uncover the story were sources that live in Miner Village, key witnesses to the actions of the two athletes and the response of the university police. One of our sources was fired for his role in uncovering the events of that night. This upstanding and outstanding student, who felt it was his obligation to report the commonly known, yet publicly unspoken drug-related problems at the student residential areas, was terminated from his duties as a student employee.

Instead of being rewarded for his courage to speak the truth about this major issue that is affecting students living on campus, his reward was termination. Yet so far, the two athletes have yet to receive anything but a slap on the wrist.

If two students not affiliated with UTEP Athletics were caught in the same situation, would they receive the same slap-on-the-wrist punishment? Would university officials have punished the student who released the information?

The night we started contacting UTEP Athletics and other university officials for information on the allegations, we were met with a brick wall. We are by no means saying that the public information officers did not do their jobs by fulfilling our request to get interviews (well for the most part), most of them were very helpful throughout the long night and day we worked on breaking the story.

But surprisingly, university officials were the ones who tried to block us from publishing the story more than the university's public relations' personnel. A university employee even accused us of working on the story only because the subjects were student athletes. Whether the athletes or university officials like it or not, student athletes are public figures and their actions are chronicled every day in the media. That is the reason why most, if not all, universities have a separate PR department to handle  just sports.

One of the best advantages of being the student newspaper is that we are on campus, so we develop sources in almost every department at the university. Our students work in various offices around campus, live in student housing and have many different majors so we are spread out throughout the campus. And when it comes to a story like this, sources at Miner Village are not hard to come by, although many did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation. Most local media outlets do not truly have this advantage, which is why they were blocked by university officials from getting the story.

Throughout our reporting and the reaction the day following the publication of the story, university officials seemed more concerned about hiding the story than about the increase of drug-related incidents in student residential areas.

Did UTEP officials not learn from the Penn State situation? Hiding the truth will only come back to haunt you. Although, it seems that honesty is not always the best policy considering the outcome of one of our sources.

This is where the questions at the start of this letter come in. As a university, which is more important: academics or athletics? Should athletes be held to the same standard as the general population of students? While there is no doubt UTEP Athletics brings a large amount of money into the university, is that more important than producing students with strong morals? Should athletic accomplishments outshine the development of students who will represent UTEP once they graduate and enter the work force?

What kind of students is this university producing?

In your 2011 State of the University address, you stated "Today, we strive to be the university that our students have every right to expect: a university that creates a broad range of educational opportunities for all residents of this region; an institution that fully engages all its students in a collective quest for excellence in all that we do; a university whose graduates are extraordinarily well-prepared to compete successfully with their peers from institutions across the U.S….indeed across the globe."

We here at The Prospector, truly believe you mean that, but Dr. Natalicio, we write you this letter to ask if the people who work under you do as well?

Thank you,

The Prospector Editorial Staff

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Fri Feb 3 2012 13:45
This is a very bold and overdue letter to Dr. Natalicio by The Prospector staff. I'm proud to say that I worked with many of the individuals on the editorial staff and am so, so happy to see that the student paper is holding the university accountable, like all ethical journalism outlets should. I'm not in El Paso right now, so I don't know all the details, but I do know that problems like this (in Miner Heights, concerning student athletes) have take place before. Keep up the good (and hard) work Prospy!
Tue Jan 31 2012 18:36
Steve, you should re-read the prospector article. It clearly states Narcotic Paraphernalia was found and an arrest was made. So that being said, in this other students case, that person was kicked out for the same offense. My point being the student athletes clearly got favorable circumstances compared to the other student even though they committed the same crime. Both Lacy and her roommate should be kicked out of Miner Village in regards to the contract they each signed stating immediate removal if such crime is committed.
Tue Jan 31 2012 14:21
In response to post Mon Jan 30 2012 01:08: It was reported by the Prospector that undescribed paraphernalia was found and not that any of the students were in possession on narcotics. Big difference. In Texas, simple possession of drug paraphernalia is a Class C Misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of fines up to $500. Was this other student, you mentioned, kicked out for having paraphernalia found his/her dorm? Or for possession of drugs? Once again big difference.
Mon Jan 30 2012 12:51
way to throw in Penn State...Very classy writing
Mon Jan 30 2012 12:21
I think the student community should demand the immediate reinstatement of this student who was terminated for doing his/her job. This is really a situation that will escalate out of control if we keep it covered as UTEP "officials" are doing. It is not a secret that most of this pseudo-athletes, are only taking benefit from the economic packages they are given and get involved in activities that are not at all representative of true athletes. That aside to the fact that they in general get very, if not extremely poor performance in the sports they are supposed to represent. This should be a turning point in UTEP's policies for the good of education.
Mon Jan 30 2012 01:08
To the anonymous post from Friday at 9:07... The punishment for anyone in possession of drugs is NOT and should not be a slap in the wrist. Each miner village resident, regardless of being a student athlete, must sign a form which clearly states that the punishment for possession of any illegal drug is an automatic removal from Miner Village and punishable by law. Already another student was kicked out for the same offense. Why should these two girls be allowed to stay? I know my facts on the situation, UTEP needs to address this.
Fri Jan 27 2012 09:07
II hate it when people make a social justice issue of something that isn't, this is annoying and obnoxious. The story of the Big Evil, Omnipotent, UTEP Athletic Department (well on it's way to being the next Penn State) and the brave anonymous source who risked it all to bring us the shameful truth...................a couple of college girls had bong in their room! I'm not sure what the maximum penalty for the egregious crime of having some sort of drug paraphernalia in your possession, but I'd imagine it's a slap on the wrist. Even for a person not fortune enough to play for the UTEP Lady Miner Basketball Championship Juggernaut. If the University's reputation as an institution of higher learning and thought has suffered (lets hope that the Basketball Team wasn't tasked in any significant manner to uphold that reputation), it's because this story was printed as real news by the University paper.
Edwin Delgado, Author of El Nuevo Orden(The New Order)
Fri Jan 27 2012 00:48
I went to High School with Justin Stene a few years back, and is a real shame he got fired for doing what he was hired to do in the first place, I know that the university is taking action on this situation but what is puzzling me is that so far the person that recieved the most harsh punishment was a dedicated reporter.
Thu Jan 26 2012 18:55
What truth??? The girls were involved in a situation where there was drug paraphernalia found in their dorms. They were suspended from the team for it, and the legal process will take over from here. If they're guilty, and there is any further action taken, they will be kicked off the team and expelled from the university. What is there to uncover?
Thu Jan 26 2012 17:51
I commend the prospector for their valient efforts at uncovering the truth!
Thu Jan 26 2012 17:32
Sorry you all, this here is a terrible choice of an article. It sounds like you all are jumping to a ton of conclusions, and when it comes down to it, you have no idea what you are talking about. The university didn't sit there and try to hide these girls from the law. They made a mistake, the police were called, and now let the legal process run its course.

Keitha Adams, Bob Stull, and Diana Natalicio have nothing to hide, nor are they protecting anyone, by not coming out and telling the media the specifics of the situation. That's typical of what happens, anytime a situation like this arises. You want specifics, go to the law enforcement, not UTEP. And, good luck with that. After they don't answer your questions, you can write an article about them being involved in a massive cover up and conspiracy to protect two students that were smoking pot. Ridiculous.

The student-athletes are suspended until everything plays out, and then a decision can be made as to what their future with the program looks like. If this kid that reported the stuff was fired, I'm sure there was a reason, and not a conspiracy. If it is a conspiracy, this kid should get a lawyer, and slap the university with a serious lawsuit. If he doesn't, obviously his firing was justified.

Bottom line. Just because you have a source, doesn't mean you know anything about the situation. Don't start jumping to conclusions and misleading your readers. If you think Natalicio is looking out for the good of the student athletes and not the entire student body, just look around you. Look at all the buildings that are going up, the fight that she has put on to get this university to tier 1 status, all the improvements for student life, and many other projects that are still in the works...Please don't write garbage like this anymore, you all are better than that.

Thu Jan 26 2012 16:47
An outrage. As a parent of a UTEP student and signer of student loans this action worries me. I trust the University to not only provide an excellent education to my child, and all other students, but to live up to the morals supposedly being taught. A very wrong message is being sent and I am sure if the young man has had no previous altercations with his employer, no previous discilline problems then a different recourse could have been taken. Perhaps a write up, counseling and retraining on the rules and processes, if any exist in writing, and a second chance given. I am sure those athletes will be back on the court in no time...while this young man will continue to suffer the wrath of the business end of the University.

For shame UTEP

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