This final edition in the Corps Values series marks a major milestone in The Battalion’s coverage of the Corps of Cadets, as we delve into hazing and other disciplinary issues. While we initially thought this might mark the end of our investigations, our experience throughout the semester and especially within the past few weeks has made it clear that this is only the beginning.
Last semester, The Battalion was one of nine universities selected to participate in the Poynter College Media Project, which equipped us with resources to pursue a long-term project throughout this school year. We got started with our research over winter break and have been writing stories throughout this semester.
Our first edition covered the history and influence of the Corps at A&M and the second focused on cadet experience as well as perceptions of students inside and outside the organization. Finally, the staff turned its focus toward some of the elements that are less frequently discussed, with a particular emphasis on hazing. While we have done our best to tell the story of the Corps in full throughout this semester, we were understandably met with some opposition and criticism as we began to venture into this subject matter.
It is hard for us to look at something that is well loved throughout the Aggie community and address the fact that some of it might be unsavory. We were accused of creating this series as a way to undermine the Corps. Cadets either wouldn’t go on the record to talk about their experiences or told us we would never get anyone to speak with us because nobody would want to hurt the Corps’ reputation. We were constantly asked what our “real” motivation behind the series really is. In fact, we had a long conversation about this question because most staff members were being asked the same questions in their personal lives and with sources for stories completely unrelated to the series.
I understand it may be hard for some to believe that we are being as genuine and transparent as possible about our mission, but I would like to reassure readers that what I said in my first letter is true: we are not interested in creating controversy for controversy’s sake. We want to tell the whole story, and part of the story involves looking into the rumors of hazing that every cadet and non-reg has surely heard during their time at A&M.
I believe that we have exhibited that throughout this entire series. We have made every effort to include various angles in each story we wrote and created two large editions teaching readers about the Corps before delving into more conduct-specific content.
Throughout these last few weeks, our reporting has revealed a significant reduction in the number of Corps hazing cases in recent years. Even so, when we heard back about the public records request we made, we learned that from 2010 to the present, there have been 207 cadets found responsible for some degree of hazing. This number was much higher than we were expecting. Originally, we had requested complete records of each case, but with such a large number of incidents, it would cost us thousands of dollars to obtain the redacted versions of the 44,000 pages. Since these records were not something we would be able to pay for and receive any time soon, we were able to get some more basic figures from the Offices of the Dean of Student Life to contextualize some of what we were learning.
So like I said before — this is only the beginning.
While much of our staff is graduating this semester, returning editors will be working on more research and plans throughout the summer to prepare the fall staff for follow-up stories. The staff will be narrowing our public records request to gather information on a few select years and diving deeper into specific instances in those reports. Additionally, they will be pursuing sources who we identified this semester but were unable to interview for various reasons.
While we did spend this semester looking specifically at the Corps — and that will remain a major part of the focus next year — the staff will also be looking into where other hazing cases across the university come from.
I believe that we have built a firm foundation for these future investigative pieces. I continue to invite anyone with comments on this edition, suggestions for future stories or a desire to be interviewed to reach out to The Battalion by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting the newsroom in Memorial Student Center room L400.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has helped us throughout this process. While gaining some information has been a challenge, the experience has been valuable, and it is thanks to the help of sources who understand the importance of what The Battalion is doing. I hope that this can lead to a continued conversation as The Battalion staff continues to research what we have learned so far.