THE BLOG
02/17/2011 04:57 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Two Documents Released on Future of SJMC

By Isa Jones

Two documents were released to students and the public on Tuesday which constitute the report from the Information, Communication and Technology Exploratory Committee. It was accepted by the Office of the Provost, and a Journalism PLUS Action Plan was given to President Bruce Benson by Chancellor Philip DiStefano.

In the Journalism PLUS Action Plan, DiStefano said he accepted the recommendation of discontinuance and noted a need to plan for the future.

"Program discontinuance of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication is being recommended on the grounds of strategic realignment and will allow us to continue to improve journalism on campus," DiStefano said in the Journalism PLUS Action Plan. "We now await the recommendation of the President and the action of the Board. While we await those decisions, we must begin to plan for the future."

The Journalism PLUS Action Plan outlined three major goals: meeting the commitments to students through education, meeting the commitments to faculty and staff by attempting to find new homes or career paths for them and completing all of this quickly in order to move the campus forward.

By fall of 2012, DiStefano said, he hopes there will be two options for those seeking a degree in journalism.

"Students will be able either to: pursue a double major in journalism and another subject; or pursue a major in a subject with a certificate/minor in journalism," DiStefano said in the Journalism PLUS Action Plan.

Though it is not clear what school this new journalism degree will fall under, the university is no longer planning to offer the standalone B.S.

The letter further discusses the future of the SJMC faculty and staff, with a focus on current tenured staff.

"The Office of Faculty Affairs, under instructions from the Chancellor and the Provost, will meet individually with the tenured and tenure track faculty in SJMC to discuss various career options, including moving to a unit in the graduate school, joining other units on campus, leaving the university for another opportunity, or moving towards retirement," DiStefano said in the Journalism PLUS Action Plan.

Decisions regarding the current non-tenure track faculty have not been made yet, but the Journalism PLUS Action Plan states they will be based on instructional demand for those faculty members.

Sandra Fish, an instructor at SJMC, said the letter raised a lot of questions.

"Clearly things are uncertain," Fish said. "I still wonder what the real goal here is. I wonder what is the real goal of having done all of this."

But Fish said there need to be changes.

"Our journalism department needs to move into the future rapidly and radically," she said.

Fish said she hopes that journalism will continue to play a role in whatever program comes next, and the uncertainty of that is a major concern.

"For me, my biggest concern is that it creates such an uncertainty for students who are already here and want to come here," she said. "This is a popular program for both advertising and journalism; you don't want to get rid of it. It's an important program. We are teaching people how to go out and communicate with others and the world and that's an important skill to have."

Zachary Cook, a 19-year-old freshman news-editorial major, said that though there is uncertainty, he is hopeful for his education.

"Despite the situation the school is in right now, I think that we will still get the education we need to become the journalists we want to be," Cook said.

Another document, the ICT report, provides another picture of the future of journalism at CU.

The ICT Exploratory Committee was put in place in September of 2010 by Provost Russell Moore to look at current information, communication and technology assets on campus and how they could be improved.

After doing an "environmental scan," and fully exploring CU's current information, communication and technological state, the committee has created their own vision of the future.

"CU Boulder will be a motivating force and respected voice in the ongoing digital revolution engendered by the intersections of information, communication and media with technology," according to the ICT report.

To meet this vision, the ICT Exploratory Committee has proposed three possible models as well as their own recommendation.

Model A proposes creating a whole school or college of information, communication and media technology.

According to the committee, this model would create an academic community that focuses on information, communication and media technology and would have a balance between research and creative work.

Model B proposes creating an Institute for the Global Digital Future.

"Creating an Institute for the Global Digital Future would engage and advance the transformative potentials generated at the intersections of information, communication, media and technology through research and creative work spanning these fields," according to the ICT report.

Model C, which is the model the committee is recommending, would be a combination of the previous proposals, creating both a new school and an institute.

"Establishing both a School or College and an Institute combines the advantages of both models while obviating the disadvantages of having just one," according to the ICT report.

Fish said there is a lot of potential in a program like what is being proposed by the ICT committee.

"I think that there are great potential here," Fish said. "Like if they are really going to create a school of Information, Communication and Media Technology and include journalism in that. I think there's a ton of potential for journalism there and to do some crossover with things like computer science and art and other disciplines."

Both the Journalism PLUS Action Plan and the ICT report are just recommendations, and the future is still unknown.

Cook said he has his own idea of what should happen.

"Honestly, journalism is changing," Cook said. "Everyone has heard this many times by now. I wish that, instead of closing the school completely, which is what it sounds like, they should restructure it to have it be adapted to the types of journalism we have now. Make it more focused on digital media. Journalism is too important in our democracy to go away completely; anyone who is in a journalism class will know this."

Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Isa Jones at Alexandra.i.jones@colorado.edu.