College of Media interim dean plans for uncertain future

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Angela Kerndl

The exterior of the Alice Campbell Alumni Center on Sept. 3.

By Michael Semaca , Staff writer

With an uncertain future looming over the College of Media, Interim Dean Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko asked the College’s staff if it thought the college is the best it can be.

Currently, the college is divided into three specific “units”— advertising, media and cinema studies and journalism. However, rumors suggesting drastic changes to the structure leave Media students and faculty feeling uneasy.

Dean Chodzko-Zajko acknowledged these rumors in Thursday’s meeting.

“There’s sort of an elephant in the room, and that is that there has been talk of units in the college exploring whether they would be better off in another organizational structure,” Chodzko-Zajko said.

However, he tried to ease these fears at the planning meeting by saying there is absolutely no plan in place for such a change to occur. The faculty and staff self-evaluation is not going to cause an immediate decision on the matter, he said.

“It’s fair to say that people have imagined a variety of possible different situations in the past,” Chodzko-Zajko said. “But there are no proposals on the table right now about advertising or journalism or media and cinema studies going anywhere.”

Chodzko-Zajko assigned the College of Media faculty and staff a reflection on the college’s current position and what can be done to maximize its success in the future. He asked that these reflections be submitted to him by Oct. 17.

“We are exploring what’s in the best interest of the programs in the college right now,” Chodzko-Zajko said. “And I am confident that this exercise, in which the faculty have an opportunity to think about the growth and evolution of the college, will be an extremely significant factor in determining what happens.”

Looking for a student perspective

Although repeatedly noting his interest in faculty opinions, Chodzko-Zajko did not request students’ thoughts. College of Media Student Senator Shani Benezra inquired about the possibility of creating a student committee on the matter.

“I know we didn’t go deep into the possible changes, but I’ve heard rumors of maybe putting advertising in the business college and things like that, so just hearing students if they feel that would be beneficial to them,” Benezra told Chodzko-Zajko.

Chodzko-Zajko welcomed the opportunity for a future student committee. Benezra promised to create such a group.

However, Benezra was not completely opposed to the idea of changing the structure of the College of Media. She acknowledged the college’s three majors’ paths are notably different.

She noted her experience as a journalism student is entirely different from friends in the advertising program.

“The fact that our education is very different, yet we’re all graduating from the College of Media,” Benezra said. “Maybe some things need to change there, but I don’t think that anyone wants to see this college dissolving.”

Benezra particularly disliked the lack of available resources to College of Media students. Referencing the recording studio located in the Undergraduate Library as an example, she noted the difficulty in booking the space because of high demand from media students.

“Why is the College of Media not equipped with the most high end resources and technology for all of the College of Media to use?” she asked. “Right now, it just feels like we’re lacking.”

She hoped that the interim dean takes into consideration the feelings of both the students and the professors, some of whom have called the college their home for decades.

“[The professors] know how this college works; they know what works and what hasn’t,” Benezra said.

An old-time concern

This is not the first time such a plan has been rumored in journalism Professor Eric Meyer’s 20 years at the University; Meyer claimed the new discussion is the third or fourth consideration. After the meeting, Meyer said he does not believe the current talk of reorganizing the college will materialize any time soon.

“It’s one of those things like cicadas: it comes back in various phases, and it usually does when someone’s unhappy with something,” Meyer said. “You have to figure out what the unhappiness is and then resolve it.”

Meyer speculated that the recent discontent results from ongoing budget issues that the state, and subsequently the University, faces.

“As long as money is coming in, people are getting what they want, (and) things go OK,” he said. “When money’s getting tight, then people don’t get what they want, and then they start fighting over the scraps left over on the table. I think that’s what’s happening right now.”

Regardless, these are unique times for Meyer.

During his tenure, the college has never had to search for a new permanent dean until now. Because of this, he refused to rule anything out.

Meyer also acknowledged the tensions between the journalism and advertising departments stemming from different funding necessities.

Journalism classes are typically smaller and more costly.

Advertising classes are larger, thus generating more revenue.

Meyer said former Dean Jan Slater thought the three units should exist based solely on their own earnings.

However, Chodzko-Zajko sees the situation differently.

“(Dean Slater wanted) that there would be no cross subsidies, and the current dean does not believe that. Neither does the campus as a whole,” Meyer said. “That may resolve some things, but who knows about the rest of them?”

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