IU considering merger of School of Journalism, other media departments
Jan 04, 2013 (Herald-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A proposal to merge the Indiana University School of Journalism with the departments of telecommunications and communication and culture has been submitted by a faculty-based committee to Lauren Robel, Bloomington provost and executive vice president for IU.
The new entity would be named the School of Communication, Media and Journalism and initially consist of five departments including journalism, telecommunications, emergent media arts, cinema and media studies, and communication and public culture.
While the consolidation of mass media-related studies at IU has long been discussed, the impetus for the report submitted late last month came from the IU trustees, the administration and the New Academic Directions Report of 2011.
The New Academic Directions Report seems to be regarded by the trustees and top administration as a blueprint for academic organization and reorganization on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses, and several of its recommendations -- such as the creation of a new School of Global and International Studies -- already have been implemented.
"The committee's report is the culmination of a lot of discussion about the future of this area of the campus," Robel said in an email. "My next step, as the report indicates, is a small, external group that will provide a reaction. That group has not yet been named. I hope to have a proposal to the trustees by the end of the academic semester."
The provost was out of town this week carrying out her final duties as outgoing president of the Association of American Law Schools.
Telecommunications department chairman Walter Gantz said on Thursday that the report keeps a lot of the university's media strengths intact while also creating areas that cross existing boundaries.
Gantz said the proposal is similar to the School of Global and International Studies plan in that it merges existing nationally and internationally regarded programs in journalism, telecommunications and communication and culture into a whole under which the sum could be greater than the parts.
As the provost indicated, discussion of the various areas of media studies at IU has been ongoing for some time, without resolution. A task force on communication studies issued a May 2010 report that concluded that most faculty and graduate students in the fields studied "see grave obstacles to a new structure for communication studies teaching and research on the Bloomington campus." The New Academic Report noted, however, that no actual proposal had been submitted, making assessment by the trustees and administration problematic.
In August 2012, Robel met with Larry Singell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Michael Evans, interim dean of the School of Journalism, to impanel a committee to compose a merger plan.
The merger committee that submitted the recent report included Evans and Mike Conway from journalism; John Lucaites of the College of Arts and Sciences; Julia Fox, telecommunications; and Ted Striphas and Greg Waller from the department of communication and culture. The committee met weekly throughout the fall semester.
The proposed school would fall under the umbrella of the College of Arts and Sciences, returning journalism to the college, where it resided until it became an independent school in the 1980s.
Gantz said the proposal creates a structure for a merger and added that he hopes the initial organization will be open to "tweaking," be it additions or subtractions. "The one thing I think is missing is film," Gantz said. "That might be included in cinema and media studies, I don't know, but I'd like to see it highlighted. This campus has tremendous resources in film, and I think film production is something that would attract students and national attention to Indiana University."
Late last semester, telecommunications did bring in actor, author and film producer Robby Benson to interview for a potential "professor of practice" position that would be created under the merger.
Gantz said the proposal -- fluid or not -- is the first phase for any merger. The second stage, he said, will be serious consideration of the construction of a new building to bring the merged units together physically. "It's one thing to be a half-mile apart and quite another a floor apart," he said.
"The current space situation for all three units is a major impediment towards reaching our potential in the areas of communication and media," the committee proposal reads. "Journalism outgrew Ernie Pyle Hall decades ago and has been forced to cannibalize production and research space just to create enough room for offices and classrooms.
"We are strongly committed to the belief that the space needs of this new School would be best served by a new building constructed close to the Radio-TV Center and the IU Cinema," the report recommends.
The proposal is posted for public viewing at www.indiana.edu/~provost/academic-initiatives/index.shtml.
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