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Published June 21, 2024

Faculty limited for CLA’s most popular major

While major newspapers are filing for bankruptcy, more and more students are choosing to sit in the classrooms of Murphy Hall . In the meantime, theyâÄôd like more academic guidance. Journalism recently passed psychology as the College of Liberal Arts âÄô most popular major, but a University-wide hiring freeze is preventing the School of Journalism and Mass Communication from hiring a full staff, and students say academic advising is suffering because of it. The journalism school currently has about 1,100 students enrolled in professional journalism, strategic communications or mass communications majors. The largest track, strategic communication, makes up about 60 percent of students in the school, Dan Wackman, the schoolâÄôs director of undergraduates, said. The SJMC is the only liberal arts program that has its own advisers and that requires a secondary application process. Despite the growing number of students, there are only 24 faculty members advising students, SJMC Honors Representative Kathleen Hansen said. There are about 30 adjunct faculty members in the SJMC, but only full-time teaching specialists and professors are permitted to advise students, Hansen said. Adjuncts teach the majority of the schoolâÄôs classes. While the adjuncts connect with students professionally, they donâÄôt have the background to connect with students academically, nor is it their job to, Hansen said. The psychology department, however, has nearly twice the amount of faculty and almost triple the amount of adjunct professors. Full-time SJMC faculty are each responsible for advising 30 to 50 students and with staff changes, students often get shuffled around, making it hard for them to connect with an adviser, Hansen said. Journalism sophomore Sarah Darnall has had a few different advisers during her time in the school and said sheâÄôd like a regular mentor. âÄúIt would make you feel like somebodyâÄôs keeping an eye on you, rather than you are just at this huge school figuring it out on your own,âÄù she said. A few extra full-time professors would help balance academics with professional skills, Wackman said. âÄúItâÄôs not that [adjuncts] are not doing a good job,âÄù Hansen said. âÄúIdeally we would have the combination.âÄù And while the faculty shares the studentsâÄô concerns, they are at the mercy of the UniversityâÄôs administration, which is facing a $20 million budget cut. The school has not had a full faculty for at least the past decade, Wackman said. And although the administration allowed them to hire a public relations assistant professor for the upcoming fall semester, it doesnâÄôt look like the three additional vacant positions are going to be filled anytime soon, he said. Limited faculty is a problem facing many departments at the University, Wackman said. CLA alone had most of its 44 staff searches suspended due to the November hiring freeze . Journalism faculty members are hoping the programâÄôs popularity will benefit them when the administration plans how to deal with the cuts. âÄúWe hope that theyâÄôll recognize that with us being the largest major and student demand being really high that they really need to support this school,âÄù Wackman said. The journalism school was given a break with hiring the public relations assistant professor, filling a major academic void. A public relations professor has never been on staff, which recent strategic communication graduate Allison Troyer said was a detriment to the program. âÄúI think itâÄôs sort of ridiculous they would offer a track without a sitting faculty member,âÄù she said.

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