Indiana Daily Student

Telecom, CMCL react to proposed merger

There’s no clear consensus with faculty and administration in the telecommunications and communication and culture departments following Provost Lauren Robel’s Feb. 19 announcement regarding their departments’ merger with the School of Journalism.

Telecommunications department chair Walter Gantz and interim chair of communication and culture Barbara Klinger both agreed the proposal to house the merged communication unit within the College of Arts and Sciences would be a smart move to increase coordination between units. They also echoed each other’s statements, saying their faculty appreciates the liberal arts tradition of COAS and enjoy their current residence within the College.             

Gantz said there haven’t been formal discussions about the merger among his staff to help shape a new proposal. He is still waiting for direction from upper administration.

“My sense is that the report that had been delivered to the provost was a starting point, but that we don’t really have the architecture or scaffolding in place yet to build this combined edifice,” Gantz said. “I expect we’re going to learn more soon and that there’ll be ample time for faculty to construct what this new school is going to look like.”

Robel noted last week that “the ball is back in the faculty’s court,” and that faculty from all three units would need to work together to develop a new proposal for her to consider. This would need to happen before submitting a finalized proposal to the Board of Trustees — which meets on campus April 11-12 — and President Michael McRobbie.

Amy Cornell, an undergraduate adviser and assistant to the chair of the Department of Communication and Culture, hasn’t heard from her students about the subject. Nor has she heard from administrative superiors on a future meeting of department leaders to discuss its future, as suggested by Robel.

Though her students haven’t been very vocal on the merger, she said she believes it will offer future students new opportunities in the form of new majors and courses.

“We’ll be able to talk about media and communication in new ways by bringing together these three areas that look at things differently but have overlapping interests,” Cornell said. “The devil is always in the details.”          

Mark Deuze, associate professor in the Department of Telecommunications, spent his first year at IU as a visiting professor in the School of Journalism and CMCL, and later moved to telecommunications. He isn’t pleased with the progression of the merger proposal, he said. Media and communication at IU is not limited to just three areas, he said, and trying to force the three areas into a single unit is a missed opportunity for true innovation.

“I’m asking the University higher-ups ‘what is it that you’re not getting?’ Nothing ever gets solved by adding another bureaucratic layer on top. That’s just not how things work,” Deuze said. “To be very honest, the way it looks like now, it makes it look like we’re going backwards and not forwards.”

In academics, red tape currently prevents journalism students from getting a second major in telecommunications. Telecommunications majors cannot earn a major or certificate in journalism.

Senior Kylee Wierks, a telecommunications and political science major, is also a reporter and anchor for IU Student Television. She’s taken enough classes in the journalism school to get a certificate in journalism but cannot due to the credit restriction.

Wierks was a journalism major throughout her freshman year. First semester sophomore year she switched to telecommunications after getting nervous about the future of print journalism, she said.

Still, she estimates she’s taken as many telecommunications as journalism courses. That said, the School of Journalism offers just two broadcast courses to undergraduates.

“My ultimate goal is to be a broadcast journalist, so I decided I needed the reporting and writing skills that I would get at the journalism school that I couldn’t get at the T-comm (telecommunications) school, because as far as television production goes at the T-comm school, they mainly do the production aspect of it.”

Cornell acknowledged details are scant, but from informal talks with her colleagues, she said faculty mood in the department is one of tempered optimism, given the proposal’s recommendation to keep CMCL in COAS.             

“Had it gone the other way, I guarantee you my faculty would have been upset about leaving the college,” she said.

Thought the current proposal calls for the two departments to remain in the College, the new unit is tentatively scheduled to be housed in Franklin Hall, near the Sample Gates, forcing the Department of Telecommunications out of the Radio-Television Center, located between the School of Fine Arts and the Herman B Wells Library.

Though the Radio-Television Center was built decades ago, a $7.5 million, 19,000 square feet addition was added in 1997, which included the remodeling of the older building.  

Gantz said he isn’t sure if production, administrative and academic space from all three units will fit in Franklin Hall.

He noted the current, relatively new studios in the Radio-Television Center would be both difficult and expensive to move to Franklin Hall.

“Our TV studio is wonderful and large and can’t easily be uprooted,” he said. “We also know that journalism would like a studio for news production. As we move toward incorporating more film, we’ll need facilities for that and post-production work.”

Sharing space with telecommunications academic space is IU Radio and Television Services, which includes WTIU Public Television, WFIU Public Radio and IUSTV.

“The boundary is porous,” Gantz said. “We have students who work for RTV Services. We have production professionals who teach some of our classes.”

He expressed concern about the loss of that relationship if the move to Franklin Hall were to be approved.  

“At least for telecommunications, Franklin Hall isn’t the ideal location,” Gantz said.

The new proposed school does hold promise, however, for IUSTV. Current studio space in Read Center isn’t the most spacious or up-to-date, Wierks said.  IUSTV, as well as WTIU, have been crucial to her professional development at IU, she added.

“If I hadn’t done IUSTV or interned at WTIU over at the T-comm school, I wouldn’t have any broadcast experiences at all,” Wierks said. “We learn how to put packages together in class, but that’s about it. You don’t really learn about news setup works at all in these classes. You really have to seek outside of school organizations like IUSTV in order to get that experience.”            

Despite the potential upsides of reducing academic course friction and increased student media connectivity, Dueze said collaboration must give rise to a school, not the other way around.

“It’s well intended,” Deuze said. “I’m all for doing more things together and getting out of the cocoon that telecommunications is ... but I don’t think new school will facilitate this. Maybe in the long term, but the way it has been managed at this time, I don’t see it happening. It’s just sad. Something better could have been made out of this.”

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