Committee reverses position

By Markos Moulitsas

Despite a painful, drawn-out process, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences reluctantly approved the elimination of the M.A. program in journalism.

The LA&S College Curriculum Committee reversed its earlier inaction on the issue and voted to endorse the elimination of the journalism master’s program during a meeting Oct. 21.

The vote came one month after the committee endorsed the elimination of M.A. programs in both German and Russian, but refused to consider the fate of the journalism program.

The program has been recommended for elimination under the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative.

“I’m very disappointed that the curriculum committee recommended the elimination of the program,” said Daniel Riffe, journalism department chair.

“In my opinion, the whole process is faulty—from the IBHE’s selection of the programs using faulty data and reasoning, to the way it was handled on campus.”

Despite the curriculum committee’s refusal to act on the proposal the first time, it was brought back once again by the LA&S dean’s office for a second look, and the program was killed.

Norris said he was responsible for bringing the issue back to the curriculum committee in the form of a letter requesting the program elimination be considered again, but he denied having anything against the journalism program.

“I’m the villain. I’m the guy who did it, (but) the letter I sent Don (Cress, associate dean of LA&S) had no editorial comment,” Norris said.

Cress, who is also chair of his college’s curriculum committee, said the committee originally refused to take action because of fears the proper elimination procedure had not been followed. Once those fears were eliminated, so was the M.A. in journalism.

Joe Burchfield, committee member and associate professor of history, said, “I didn’t see much that changed on the issue. We rehashed the ground we went through before. (Still) no one came in and twisted arms.”

Many people involved in the process expressed regret the action had to be taken, not only with the M.A. in journalism, but with all programs affected.

“No one takes any pleasure in doing this,” Cress said. “After we all voted (on the journalism proposal), we all stopped and paced around quietly for a few minutes before we continued.”

Norris said, “Periodically, faculty is called upon to do distasteful things. We get paid to make professional judgements.

“No one in campus has found joy in the PQP exercise, and it has had a very damaging impact on not only faculty but administrators and students from the affected programs as well. It could have been done differently,” he said.

However, he added, “If you believe in shared governance, then you have to realize that there are some decisions made at department level, some made at college level and some at university level. They may not all match. Faculty has to realize that it’s nothing they did.”

The fate of the program had been in bureaucratic limbo for weeks as no one seemed to know what would happen.

NIU Provost J. Carroll Moody said on Oct. 18 the administration was considering its options, but stressed that final authority to cut the program rested in the hands of NIU’s governing board, the Board of Regents.

“You have to realize that they (the curriculum committee) didn’t take a position,” Moody said. He listed some of the options open to the administration.

“We could ask the grad council to review it or we may do nothing. The Board of Regents may take action on their own. They are the ultimate authority.”

Accordingly, no one involved in the process believed the last had been heard from the issue.

Riffe said he was not surprised the dean’s office requested a second look at the program.

“I know the dean can be relentless,” he said.

Burchfield said, “I don’t think any of us in the original decision thought the problem would go away.”

Although he had been warned not to take the decision personally, Riffe said he couldn’t help being angry, especially since one of the reasons he was brought to NIU was to build up a master’s program for the journalism department.

“It’s hard to look at something like this, which you have put so much time into, and not take it personally,” he said.

The elimination of the M.A. in journalism will next be considered by the Graduate School’s curriculum committee on Nov. 8.