Student group calls for delay of communications merger; provost says plan will stand
Mar 07, 2013 (Herald-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A newly formed Indiana University student group is calling on Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel to "step back from her decision" recommending the creation of a School of Communications, Media and Journalism and open a public comment period on the proposal.
Robel said late Wednesday afternoon that she remains happy to talk to anyone and everyone about her decision, but she won't be rescinding her recommendation for a merger of the School of Journalism and the departments of telecommunications and communication and culture.
"I'm making the recommendation to the president, and I'm trying to talk it through carefully with the various constituencies and particularly the faculty members affected by it," she said.
The call for reconsideration came from a group calling itself SPARC -- Students for Progress, Action and Reform Campaign. It was formed this semester by students in journalism and communication studies and "grew into" a ticket in the IU Student Association elections, according to member Sidney Fletcher.
The group's emailed news release criticizes the lack of student input into Robel's decision and said "the concerns of students, alumni and other supporters of media education have not been fully addressed in the discourse on campus."
An extended public comment period would allow supporters and detractors of the merger to "air their concerns in a calm, considered dialectic that would help to lower the temperature surrounding this issue," the news release says.
Robel said that while she did not conduct a town hall forum on the subject, she posted her merger recommendation on the provost's website on Dec. 19, 2012, and invited comment from anyone. She also met with Dean of Students Pete Goldsmith's advisory council in early January and urged members to call attention to her proposal and solicit comments.
Robel said she carefully considered all of the comments and viewpoints presented to her. "People have not been shy to comment, before or after I announced my recommendation in my State of the Campus address (Feb. 19), and for anyone who has comments now, I'd be happy to hear them," she said on Wednesday.
"Frankly, I'm sensing a growing level of excitement about what is possible here," she said.
The provost said that currently, conversations about how the merger will be executed are taking place between the leadership of the School of Journalism and College of Arts and Sciences. A primary issue with many detractors is that journalism will lose its stature as a free-standing school and the newly created school will fall under the umbrella of the College. "I've asked them to make a recommendation on members of a working group, particularly on Franklin Hall (where she is recommending the new school be housed)," she said.
IU units that occupied Franklin Hall -- the former main library -- have been removed and the interior has been gutted and awaits recommendations about how the interior will be reconstructed. "There are a lot of exciting ideas about how we will use that space, such as creating a media commons and having the ability to have access to a lot more production possibilities," Robel said. "I can really envision that building full of life all day long and well into the evening with the students, the IDS, students working on film ... right now it just falls dark in the evening. I think having all of that right there on top of the hill overlooking Kirkwood is pretty exciting."
The provost said incorrect information has been disseminated indicating the building will be renamed Ernie Pyle Hall. That decision has not been made, she said. Robel noted, however, that "the Ernie Pyle name will follow journalism."
The provost also said she didn't quite understand complaints about moving journalism out of the existing Ernie Pyle Hall. "The last two deans (Brad Hamm and interim dean Michael Evans) both indicated to me that they are currently in an inadequate facility," she said.
Robel said the next step in the merger process will be to have faculty from the affected areas work through issues of curriculum, new programs and the like. No official action on the proposed new school is likely before the university trustees, who must approve the merger, meet in June.
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