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Seniors unable to graduate

By Djamila Grossman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
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Journalism department overcrowding keeps students out of required courses

Ten journalism students have to push back their plans to graduate in May because the department is unable to offer enough classes to accommodate its increasing enrollment.

The number of journalism students has doubled since 2000, while the faculty number has gone down, said Paul Johnson, journalism academic adviser.

The increase of students in addition to a $50 million state budget cut have left officials with their hands in the air about how to tackle the need for more classes.

"We cannot meet the demand," Johnson said. "Students keep coming and coming and coming."

Out of the 10 journalism students who will not be able to graduate in spring, one has resorted to offering money to any student who will give up his or her seat in one of the senior capstone classes.

Kevin Stamler, a journalism senior, said he has gone through every possible solution, but there does not seem to be an alternative path.

"My only resource is to pay someone," Stamler said.

Stamler said he has already applied for law school and he pays out-of-state tuition, so it is cheaper for him to pay money "in the four digits" to someone who offers him a seat in one of the newspaper courses, TheTombstone Epitaph or El Independiente.

This is not the first time students have tried to purchase a seat, Johnson said, mentioning an unsuccessful instance in the spring when a student tried to buy a spot in a class.

Rather than offering money, Johnson said he sent an e-mail on the department Listserv asking students who will not graduate to drop their classes.

So far, the e-mail has gotten no response, he said.

Journalism department officials said while they understand students' frustrations with class availability, their hands are tied. Without increased state funding and university administration resources, there aren't many choices left to solve the issue.

"You shouldn't have to camp out to get a class. I feel for the students," said Susan Knight, a journalism assistant professor of practice. "This is a very collegiate department. It's frustrating if it's all of a sudden us against them. It sets up a bad dynamic."

Because the department is a member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which oversees qualified college journalism programs and enforces measures to keep up a certain standard, classes must not exceed 20 students, Knight said.

There are 670 students in the major, Johnson said, which means there are limited options to tackle class availability because of the department restrictions.

Johnson said one reason journalism has become increasingly popular is because it has a reputation of being a "glamorous field." When the identity of Deep Throat from the Nixon presidency was in the news, he said he could see an increase in people signing up.

Increases have also stemmed from the department taking on communication and media arts students who changed majors because of shortage issues in their departments.

To deal with the shortage in the past, the department has stopped offering minors and classes for Tucson residents and students from other departments, Johnson said.

Even though things are moving slowly, the department has addressed the lack of classes to administration officials.

In doing so, there has been an "explicit approval" for extra funding from the university administration, which allows the department to hire two new faculty members next year and one the following year, Johnson said.

But Knight said even with more faculty help it will be hard to completely eradicate the shortage, and Johnson said the measures implemented now will not show their effects until three years from now.

"It's no secret that Arizona doesn't fund education well," Knight said. "If you have shortages and cutbacks it has an overall effect on the image that education has in the state."

The class shortage has posed difficulties for students like Stamler to graduate in four years.

While a four-year plan is strongly encouraged by the university, Johnson said he warns students who enroll in the college about how difficult accomplishing that goal can be.

"I hesitate every time a student comes in," Johnson said. "Getting out of here in four years is less and less possible."

Knight agreed and called the situation a "disconnect," but said she will not discourage students from trying to reach that goal.

James Shockey, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences associate dean for instruction, said the journalism department is not unique on issues of funding and class shortage.

But they do have fewer faculty members than other departments and cannot increase student numbers in the classes, Shockey said, and while administration seems to care about the problem, the Provost's Office has its own budget issues to address.

In the short term, he encourages students to drop classes voluntarily, but in the long term the journalism department will have to expand, Shockey said.

"They need to keep the department viable," Shockey said. "If the current problem continues semester after semester and year after year, the word will get out and that would not be good for the university."

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