CU J-School – Letter from Regents Neguse, Merchant, and Sharkey

This afternoon, in a 5-4 vote, the Board of Regents voted to close the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  We chose not to support the recommendation from President Benson, because we felt strongly that a formal “program discontinuance” or structural change was not required to meet the changing dynamics of the journalism profession.

According to the School’s website, journalism instruction has existed on the Boulder campus for over 100 years, beginning in 1908.  In 1962, decades before many of its countless future students were born, the Board of Regents authorized the creation of the School of Journalism.

For 49 years-nearly half a century-the School has provided a quality and first-rate education to generations of journalists across the State of Colorado and our great Nation. Simply put, it has stood the test of time, and though it may be ripe for improvement, closing the School itself for “strategic alignment” purposes was undoubtedly a drastic option.

Discontinuing an academic program of the School’s stature is a serious matter. We laud the efforts of Chancellor DiStefano and the volunteers who served on the Journalism Task Force. The open meetings provided an opportunity for the public to express their diverse viewpoints on what they expect from the field of journalism. However, after careful deliberation, we concluded that while the School has room for improvement, it should not be closed.

Make no mistake, “discontinuance” means closure.  The Board of Regents was not being asked to authorize a new school that would presumably “align” journalism education with other important disciplines.  We were not being asked to create a new “School of Information, Communication, and Media Technology” as described by Provost Moore’s ICT committee, nor were we being asked to effectuate the recommendation of the Journalism School’s Advisory Board to consolidate the School’s curriculum with ATLAS as a “College of News, Information, and Technology.”  Both proposals were good ones-and had they been before the Board of Regents, perhaps we’d have voted differently.  

Unfortunately, they were not.  We were instead asked to close the School.  As a result of today’s vote, the journalism program will no longer be a stand-alone school, but rather, will be housed in the Graduate School on an impermanent basis for an unknown period of time.  Thus, the future of CU-Boulder’s journalism education, beyond the President’s promise that it will continue, is unclear.  We commend Chancellor DiStefano, Provost Moore, and the advisory committee for their hard work and commitment to an open, transparent process.  However, we simply could not support a road-map that does not tell us (or the students at CU) where we’re all going.

Many cited other reasons to close the School of Journalism beyond so-called “strategic realignment.”  For example, we were told that journalism education should be more practical and involve more experienced professionals in the journalism world.  Yet the School’s website reveals more than 30 adjunct professors, including editors, reporters, and photographers at some of the Nation’s leading publications.  Likewise, some told us that journalism education needs to be more rigorous.  Hence, the proposed Journalism Plus program will now require students to obtain a dual degree in another field. Whether the idea made sense or not, there is little doubt that few other degrees on the Boulder campus have such a requirement.  And while requiring a dual degree and increasing the credit hour requirement were ideas worth pursuing, they were not reason enough to completely shut down the School of Journalism.  

In short, we agreed that increasing the credit hour requirement would make the journalism education a more rigorous one.  We agreed that requiring students to obtain a dual degree in another major would do the same.

What we did not understand, however, is why we needed to close the School of Journalism to do so.

And for that reason, we voted no.  

Sincerely,  

CU Regent Joe Neguse (2nd Congressional District)

CU Regent Monisha Merchant (7th Congressional District)

CU Regent Sue Sharkey (4th Congressional District)

5 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. nancycronk says:

    As someone who has all-but given up mainstream media in exchange for social media, blogs, and on-line news, I understand the need for a complete overhaul of every journalism school to get with the times. Today’s journalism schools should include classes on search engine optimization, webpage development, marketing, and much more, specifically addressing the smaller, faster sources of media that have evolved in the past ten years.

    Call me a progressive conspiracist if you like, but I can’t help but entertain the thought that shutting down a journalism program may appear to potentially  silence a generation of Boulder liberals. Clearly, Benson would have some political self-interest if that were his goal. Whether my speculation has any merit or not, the joke is on them. The more corporatist partisan politics shuts down progressive voices, the more they (we) emerge in larger, louder numbers…. somehow.

    Thank you for voting your conscience, and for all of the work you do on the CU Regent Board.  

  2. Awen says:

    And to Joe and Regents Sharkey and Geddes. You and Joe and Regent Geddes (and Carrigan) stood up once before for journalism, when Benson decided to shut down the Silver & Gold Record, to silence a voice that had sometimes been critical of the administration (I don’t buy the budget argument, and neither does anyone else).

    I’m just sorry that Regent Carrigan got suckered this time, and journalism in Colorado is the poorer for it.

  3. CastleMan says:

    What else can one say about the vote to close the J-School at CU?

    Sure, there are some things that need fixing. But would we close the medical school because it has some problems, too?

    CU’s loss is also the state’s loss and journalism’s loss.

  4. Dabee47 says:

    is why Journalism can’t just be incorporated as a regular major like umphteen other fields.

    Also, if there’s no J-School, is “Journalism Plus” really a “dual degree” program, or just essentially requiring a double major?  Since the latter wouldn’t actually require “more units,” there’s a difference.  

    Obviously this sucks for students in the middle of their program…

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