Provost axes statistics and journalism

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The journalism and statistics departments are one step closer to elimination.

Provost Paul Sypherd told both departments yesterday that he was recommending their elimination to President Manuel Pacheco.

Sypherd recommended that the journalism department be phased out over the next four years, with the last students graduating from the department in May 1998, he said. The statistics department would also be closed in an undecided "earlier time frame," he said. No new students will be admitted into either department.

Pacheco will now submit the recommendation to the Faculty Senate, which will have 90 days to approve, reject or offer an alternative, Sypherd said. Pacheco will make his final recommendation to the Arizona Board of Regents, which will then vote on the matter.

In April, a Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences committee and the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee recommended elimination of the journalism department. Sypherd said he "accepted the committees' recommendations."

When asked what student input he considered during his final decision process, Sypherd said "virtually none."

He said he attempted to take students' input into consideration in preliminary stages, but said that after he realized this was taking too much time, he had to continue with "what I knew my decision would be."

Sypherd said nothing has been submitted to Pacheco in writing so he could notify the departments before local newspapers released his recommendations. He said his written recommendation will be available next week. Sypherd said he has talked to Pacheco about this on several occasions.

"The department is redundant with others in the state, few students acquire jobs in the media and the program is too vocationally oriented to be commensurate with a research institution," Sypherd said about his decision.

Stephen Auslander, the editor in chief of the Arizona Daily Star, said Sypherd's decision "is obviously not thought out." Sypherd announced his plan to Auslander prior to meeting with the journalism faculty yesterday.

He said he has been actively trying to persuade Sypherd to keep the journalism department, but said, "I don't know what I can do now except complain."

"This is pushing me to ASU," he said. "As high as 75 percent of the Star's staff comes from the UA journalism department. (The UA) is the kind of place where you can have all sorts of strange majors like race track managements but you can't major in journalism."

"There are numerous other ways in the university to teach students to be journalists," Sypherd said. "By taking courses in English, media arts, communications and possibly library sciences students can prepare for a career in journalism without having a journalism department."

Sypherd said he will work with journalism professors to establish an "interdisciplinary program" where students can take three or four journalism classes as part of an established department.

But Jim Patten, journalism department head, said Sypherd admitted that a journalism program like this would not be accredited. Patten also said more details would need to be finalized before he could determine if he would be supportive of the idea.

"Journalism is an integral part of the university, not only because of the department, but because of the interdisciplinary responsibilities that journalism provides," said Eddie Basha, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents and gubernatorial candidate, earlier this week in an interview with the Wildcat.

Sypherd said the fate of the South Tucson El Independiente and the Tombstone Epitaph, which are currently run out of the journalism department, are "unresolved."

Patten said Sypherd told the faculty he "had no interest in throwing tenured faculty members out on the street," but made no promise of finding jobs for any or all faculty members.

Patten said the journalism faculty

members have "almost all talked about our futures," but have not made final decisions about leaving the university.

C. Bickford Lucas, a journalism professor, said he was not shocked by the provost's decision.

"I was angry and disappointed, but not surprised."

Lucas said he is worried that although the provost said students who are currently in the program will be able to graduate until fall 1998, he thinks students would need to "prepare schedules very well" to make that happen.

Several journalism students also said they do not understand the reasons for eliminating the department.

"I think closing the department is a mistake," said Terry McEneny, a journalism graduate student. "I don't think they've explained their reasoning. If they had valid reasons everyone would feel less insulted. Sypherd's faith in Internet (vs. print journalism) is misguided. Students will still have to know how to write, do research and interpret the news."

Ray Stewart, a journalism and English senior, said "the provost does not know what he is talking about. This program is nationally recognized for producing minority journalists and is one of the most cost-effective on campus. If the total operating budget is less that $500,000 each year, what are their priorities? Sounds personal. Maybe they want to knock down the building and build a parking lot."

Yashaswini Mittal, the head of the statistics department, said the department's faculty members were also notified yesterday that the department would be eliminated.

She said Sypherd did not want to discuss the reasons for his decision.

"He told me, 'I am not here to debate with you,'" she said. "He said he decided to eliminate the department because other departments that need statistics teach their own (statistics) classes."

Four doctoral students, four master's students and about 1,800 undergraduate students each year will be affected, she said.

Four faculty members, including herself, will also be affected she said. Two of the faculty members have joint contracts with the math and MIS departments and one has been offered a tenured position at a school in Washington, so she is the only person whose future is unclear, she said.

Sypherd said he met with the nuclear and energy engineering department about his recommendation of merging with the aerospace and mechanical engineering department.

Ernest Smerdon, the dean of the college of engineering and mines said he supports this idea.

However, Morris Farr, the head of the nuclear engineering department, said "The jury is still out. We have not heard a rationale from the provost, the dean or anyone else" that the department is not necessary.

Sypherd also announced in September that he would recommend the elimination of the physical education undergraduate program by May 1998.

Judy Sorensen, the academic advisor for the department, said she is concerned for the 135 students who are majoring in the department and have "little reality of finishing a four-year degree in the proposed time."

"I don't consider it a done deal until it is approved by the (Arizona) Board of Regents," she said.

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