While the Information, Communication and Technology Exploratory Committee is the part of a two-pronged process charged with evaluating existing ICT assets, alumni and the public are expressing concern over possible program discontinuance at CU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Wednesday Oct. 20 the Exploratory Committee held an open forum for alumni and the public, where they solicited ideas on how the committee should move forward. Jeffrey Cox, chairman of the Academic Review and Planning Advisory Committee and associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said this committee, while different from the discontinuance committee, is thinking about the school’s position for the future.
“But what this committee’s role is not, is to redesign the specific School of Journalism and Mass Communication,” Cox said. “Instead it’s been asked by the chancellor and provost to look at this large area, which has been tagged as information, communication and technology, but obviously also includes journalism and mass communication, to look at this large area, and figure out how best this university can position itself to deliver a premier research operation, educational operation in this large, complex, interdisciplinary era.”
Despite the fact the committee has been looking for ways in which the school can utilize its current ICT assets, most audience participants expressed concern over the SJMC possibly closing down.
“A university without a school of journalism, is an organization without a soul,” said Archie Shrout, a CU alumnus who holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the SJMC. “A ship without a mast. Or a dressing room without a mirror. Discontinuance of the J-school on the Boulder campus cannot come at a worse time.”
Doug Looney, on the other hand, a former senior writer at Sports Illustrated and a CU alumnus, said he had an entirely different opinion.
“CU’s journalism school must be closed in the name of academic integrity,” Looney said. “The point is, the SJMC, school of journalism, is far behind the curve and that’s why our reputation among journalism schools around the country is exceptionally poor.”
Linda Shoemaker, president and trustee of the Brett Family Foundation and a CU graduate, also said she supports discontinuance of the SJMC. But she also offered solutions for integrating a future media center with the prerogatives of the Exploratory Committee.
“I see this discontinuance as creative destruction, which we talk about in the business world, that’s gonna lead to a world-class digital media education center at CU,” Shoemaker said. “So I come here today to share my excitement about admission and to urge you to include the reconstruction of CU’s journalism program within your ITC vision.”
Shoemaker proposed five potential characteristics of a future digital media college: Entrepreneurial energy, interdisciplinary curriculum, innovative research, collaborative outlook and powerful administration.
Other changes that Dan Pacheco , the founder and CEO of FeedBrewer, Inc. and a CU alumnus, said he would like to see integration of content and technology and an expansion of learning opportunities for undergraduates, among others.
“Less focus on research, per say, and more focus on research and development,” Pacheco said as another one of his goals for CU. “Perhaps most importantly, we need to continue a set of instruction around the civic responsibility side of content creation, which is another way of saying journalism. Things like truth, accuracy, fairness, media law, are more important today than ever in today’s fragmented media world.”
Bill Kowalski, an attorney with Caplan and Earnest LLC and a ’69 graduate of the journalism school, reflected what seemed to be the most important initiative for the audience, that the fundamental values of journalism be integrated with the changing media landscape.
“What you need to remember is that we need journalism,” Kowalski said. “The people who can understand an issue, ask the right questions, think about the issues critically and know how to present them in a way that people will understand them are absolutely crucial to democracy and our way of life. Create something flexible, that will be able to recognize the changes as they are occurring, not five years too late.”
When asked about the methodology of the Exploratory Committee in approaching the ideas of the audience, Merrill Lessley, the committee chair and a CU theatre and dance professor, said they are looking for patterns.
“We’re looking for how individuals from different areas, different kinds of organizations, say things which appear to be common in need, and how we can then structure something that will respond to that need,” Lessley said. “The real task right now is first finding the overarching mission of what we’re going to accomplish and then secondarily identifying different domains that faculty and staff can work in.”
Contact CU Independent News Budget Editor Sheila V Kumar at Sheila.firstname.lastname@example.org.