LA&S kills journalism M.A.

By Lesley Rogers

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has ruffled more than just faculty and administrative feathers.

NIU students in programs that were targeted for elimination by the IBHE last year are concerned about the future reputation of their degrees.

Students in the master’s program in journalism are especially concerned. The program is in the process of being eliminated as recommended by the IBHE.

Linda Junger, who is in her last year of the master’s program in journalism, said, “This hurts employment opportunities. When I go in for a job and the employer says, ‘You got a Master’s from Northern? I didn’t know they had a program,’ That is going to hurt.”

Many students started dropping out of classes when they heard the program was targeted for elimination, Junger said.

Stewart Parks, a student in his final semester of the journalism master’s program, said, “Employers will wonder, if this is such a hot dog program, why did they cancel it?

“We’ve had several students drop out of the program,” Parks said. “They just transfer or give up the idea.”

Parks said the journalism department will probably also have trouble retaining present faculty and recruiting new faculty.

“The elimination hurts undergraduates in journalism. Top-notch faculty will not want to teach at a school without a graduate program,” Parks said.

Journalism master’s students are not the only people concerned about program cuts. Economics and psychology graduate students are concerned about their programs possibly being targeted on the IBHE hit-list again this fall.

Gautam Reychaudhuri, a fifth-year economics graduate student, said he is concerned about the value of his degree if the program continues to be targeted for elimination.

“I am going into the job market in a year,” he said. “The Ph.D. from NIU in economics may now be defunct. We are scared.”

Khan Mohabbat, director of graduate studies in the department of economics, said the issue could distract students from their main goal—education. “I give them credit for still being able to concentrate on their classwork,” he said.

Ross Powell, chair of the geology department, said, “The main thing is students are demoralized. They are very unhappy about the thought of being in a program that may potentially not have an ongoing history.”

Mohabbat said many of the economic graduate students, as well as students who have graduated from the program, are concerned about the worth of their degree.

“Some of our very prestigious students who are working now, teaching in various schools, also have the same problem,” Mohabbat said. “How do they defend a degree that came from a program that no longer exists?”

The College of Law also was targeted for elimination last year. But James Alfini, dean of the College of Law, said the law school has maintained a good reputation.

“What establishes a reputation is the performance of those graduates and the performance of the faculty. None of these things have changed,” Alfini said.

Frederick Schwantes, chair of the psychology department, said the reputation and morale of students in the graduate program in psychology were not adversely affected.

“Our program has a very excellent reputation. Our recruitment wasn’t hurt at all and we continued to place students in top-notch internships,” Schwantes said.

The outcome of being on the IBHE hit-list was not negative, Schwantes said. “We communicated quite clearly that the IBHE does not have the authority to eliminate programs.”

However, many employers might not have an understanding of the conflict involving the targeted programs. “A potential employer may start to wonder about the problems that were in the program without knowing the details,” Powell said.

Many of the graduate students are worried that if the Ph.D. were eliminated, they would be unable to finish the program and obtain a degree, Mohabbat said.

Students in the master’s degree program in journalism will be able to complete their degree. If eliminated, no new students will be accepted into the program after the spring of 1994.

Even though some of the programs were not eliminated, morale and recruitment still suffers, Mohabbat said.

“As long as the IBHE assault continues, recruiting students for the Ph.D. degree becomes difficult. We have to tell our students the problem. We can’t hide it, that’s not fair,” Mohabbat said.