Professor: J-School future depends on bill

Rebecca Teale

Albert Tims wants journalism students to get as vocal about pushing the New Media Initiative as he is because of the high stakes involved.
The School of Journalism and Mass Communication interim director paced back and forth, pounded his fists and pushed his fingers through his hair as he spoke at a Murphy Hall forum of about 30 students and faculty Wednesday.
The meeting was arranged to inform students about what the new media initiative, part of University President Mark Yudof’s $249 million capital budget request, would mean for them.
“If this doesn’t go through, we’re through,” Tims said. “We have no future without the passage of this bill.”
If passed, the bill would provide funding for the $9 million renovation of Ford and Murphy halls and the hiring of nine new faculty members. It would also allow for an Institute for New Media Studies, an innovative technology research facility.
The bill goes before the House Capital Investment Committee today. It has already passed through the House Education Committee.
Changes to the journalism school were the centerpiece of a task force report issued in December. The task force, appointed by College of Liberal Arts Dean Steven Rosenstone, recommended a controversial merger between the journalism school and the department of speech communications. Last month, Rosenstone vetoed the suggestions.
Tims, who was a task force member, and Student Legislative Committee representative Cheryl Jorgensen told the students to voice their support for the bill by writing letters to their area legislators and visiting the Capitol in St. Paul.
“Our legislators need to have reasons to vote for this, and those reasons need to come from you,” Tims said. “A letter from you is far more effective than anything I could write.”
Jorgensen encouraged students to attend today’s student rally at the Capitol rotunda. Jorgensen said students are most important in this stage of the bill.
During the forum, journalism faculty voiced concern about the state’s neglect of the University’s journalism school, by allowing it to face budget cuts. They said state representatives justify it because technical schools provide training in journalism and communications.
Journalism professor and task force member Nancy Roberts told concerned graduate students at the meeting that one of the most important aspects of the initiative is reinstating the graduate degree in journalism. She said having a graduate degree program in journalism attracts the best faculty, the best visiting and adjunct professors, and the best students.
Students were invited to ask questions and participate in a short discussion about the initiative after Tims’ speech.
Mary Bruggeman, a sophomore in the journalism school, said she was glad she attended the forum because it is important for students to support the school and the University as a whole. She said she understood the implications of the initiative much better after the meeting.