College of Liberal Arts Dean Steven Rosenstone announced Monday he will push for changes to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, but not through an immediate merger with the Department of Speech-Communications.
If the report is approved by University President Mark Yudof and the Board of Regents, the speech department will remain untouched; the journalism school will see major renovations to Murphy and Ford halls and to the school’s curriculum.
“It is a fabulous initiative,” said Albert Tims, acting director of the journalism school. “Our entire faculty embraces it. It takes the liberal arts degree and combines it with vocational skills and training.”
The dean’s announcement marks a significant turnabout from a task force’s December recommendation that the two departments merge to rehabilitate the slipping journalism school.
“After meeting with students and faculty, I saw that the merger was not necessary,” Rosenstone said. “The kind of rebuilding that we need should and will still go forward.”
As part of the plan, the school will bring back the master’s degree in professional journalism. Establishing new master’s degrees for subjects such as new media and public affairs are also included.
However, Donald Browne, chairman of the speech-communication department, voiced concerns over potential undergraduate curriculum overlap between the speech and journalism departments.
Browne noted a portion of the proposed curriculum called “Communication Studies.” The curriculum would include instruction in intercultural and interpersonal communications, areas Browne said are already taught in speech-communications.
But Rosenstone insists these similarities are an effort to leave the door open for a future merger between the two schools.
“We’re not interested in taking pieces of either curriculum and duplicating them,” Rosenstone said. “But we are allowing for flexibility.”
But for now, the school will pursue other less-binding interdepartmental efforts, University President Mark Yudof told lawmakers in a previously scheduled presentation at the Capitol on Monday.
The report outlines Rosenstone’s $18.9 million capital request to the Legislature concerning a new media initiative first urged by Yudof.
Administrators said the plan could bolster the school’s sagging status by supporting current and proposed programs and investing in technology.
The new media initiative acknowledges recent changes in the field of communications. The money would help implement those changes into the classroom. New computer labs and equipment are included in the plan.