Trustees approve Media School proposal

Their vote of support cements the University’s endorsement of the merger and takes the Media School from “if” and “would” to “when” and “will.”

The Academic Affairs Committee unanimously approved the proposal after about 90 minutes of explanation and debate concerning the Media School.

The full board later voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

Provost Lauren Robel, Interim Dean of the School of Journalism Lesa Hatley Major and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Larry Singell presented the proposal to the trustees.

The vote is the final step of approval in a long series of events surrounding the merger of the three units.

The Media School will officially come into existence on July 1, 2014, and will be located in Franklin Hall, according to a press release from the University. Franklin Hall is expected to be renovated with state-of-the-art classrooms and digital production facilities.

The three units and the College of Arts and Sciences share an interwoven, sometimes knotty, history.

Their merger has been discussed for about the last decade, but as Robel noted in her morning presentation, discussion intensified in 2009.

In her February 2013 State of the Campus address, Robel announced her intention to recommend to the Trustees a merged school to be housed in the College of Arts and Sciences.

In the months that followed, affected parties voiced their spectrum of opinions on the merger.

The contentious nature of the merger frequently surfaced in the board’s discussion of the Media School proposal.

“I’ve learned a lot about journalism in the last 18 months,” Robel said, drawing laughter from the board and audience.

Trustee MaryEllen Bishop asked one of the questions at the heart of the merger: Will the “incredible tradition of journalism” be preserved?

Dean Singell spoke on his intentions in regards to the future autonomy of the journalism unit in the Media School.

“I have no interest in empire,” Singell said. “My objective here is excellence.”

Singell announced Friday he will appoint Major to serve as associate dean of the new Media School. A search for a dean is expected to begin next academic year.

Major and Robel both emphasized the intent to preserve, if not expand, the legacy of famed World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, the current journalism building’s namesake.

“There’s no question, no matter what happens today, that the legacy of Ernie Pyle will be preserved at Indiana University,” Trustee Patrick Shoulders said.

Robel noted the current academic programs outlined in the proposal are more an artistic rendering than an architectural one.

Looking forward, faculty will largely flesh out the framework laid out in the proposal.

Grad student and president of the Graduate and Professional Student Organization Brady Harman voiced support for the plan to form a Student Advisory Board, one of the few established platforms for student inclusion in the post-proposal landscape.

Herb Terry, Bloomington Faculty Council president and associate professor in the Department of Telecommunications, voiced a collection of faculty feedback.

He touched on the issue of naming the new school, providing adequate space in Franklin Hall and striking a balance between the humanities and professional training.

“The faculty of all three units will step up and roll up their sleeves,” Terry said, adding that much work will need to be done to move current academic structures to the vision called for in the proposal.

Follow reporter Matthew Glowicki on Twitter @MattGlo.

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