Provost blatantly neglects students

"The president and I will stand firm on the requirement that the university become more 'user friendly' toward our students." Provost Paul Sypherd Tuesday, talking about the core curriculum proposal.

"Virtually none." Sypherd's response when asked Wednesday how many students were consulted before he recommended cutting the journalism and statistics departments.

Well, Provost Sypherd, what is it? Is student input only valuable if and when it agrees with your own?

Needless to say, the Arizona Daily Wildcat is strongly opposed to cutting the journalism and statistics departments. From the very start, we've made our opinion known about departmental cutbacks. And from the very start, this administration has dismissed our arguments with a wave of its hand. In statements to the Wildcat, Sypherd said that his decision was basically made when committees made recommendations to cut departments in the spring. Why did he wait more than five months before making his final recommendation? We don't know.

It's sad that virtually no students were consulted in the decision-making process. What's even more sad is Sypherd's cavalier attitude. Students aren't important, and he doesn't care.

If students were valued as people instead of revenue-generators at this university, it would be obvious. The higher-ups would make an effort from the beginning to speak with students, instead of dismissing them as too time-consuming.

Maybe it would be easier for administrators if non-research students just took correspondence courses, or better yet just wrote the university a blank check. That way, there would be no need for space accomodations, building maintenance, faculty hiring, tenure discussions or teaching.

But the biggest bonus for the administrators would be having no one around to hold them accountable for their actions.

Sypherd said that the UA isn't the right place for a vocationally oriented program like journalism. Huh? Excuse us, we thought the idea of going to college was to gain skills needed for the job market. Silly us.

Another of Sypherd's "reasons" for axing the journalism department include the assertion that few graduates get jobs in their fields, and that the computer age is displacing print media as a news carrier.

We have news for you, Provost Sypherd: The information on the computer has to come from somewhere. It does not magically appear when one flips the "on" switch. Real people with news-gathering skills are necessary to sort through information, arrange it and analyze it so it may be entered into a computer database in the first place. Just like there are no little guys in the radio playing songs, there are no little guys in the computer playing reporter.

The entire decision-making process was flawed from the start. The initial recommendations by the Social and Behavioral Science Committee and the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee were less than thorough.

Here are a couple of examples: The committees said the Tombstone Epitaph, which is run through the Department of Journalism, could be transferred to Pima Community College. The committees neglected to check with Pima Community College to see if they could even handle the newspaper. They can't.

Or how about the committees' recommendations that the university's minority editing program simply be shifted to ASU or NAU? If the committees would have checked their facts, they would have found that the editing program is sponsored by the Institute for Journalism Education and is not up for decision by the university as to where the program will go.

The announcement of Sypherd's recommendations yesterday was poorly handled. How did the Wildcat find out about the departmental cuts? One of our reporters was asked for reaction to the cuts by a reporter from one of the Tucson daily newspapers, while the meeting was going on behind closed doors. We'll admit it, we were scooped. Two hours before Sypherd gave the departments their walking papers, he talked to the editor of the Arizona Daily Star. It's nice to know that the provost is more concerned with covering his ass than just coming straight out and announcing the cuts.

There is more to this issue than the department cuts. Sypherd said that nothing about his recommendation was written down because he didn't want those pesky reporters to get ahold of it and jump the gun.

Smart, but dangerous at the same time. How many other major decisions in the works are not written down so no one will find out? It is frightening that Sypherd, a person of power on this campus, thinks like this.

After all, if word of this had gotten out, maybe there would have been some discussion. And Sypherd certainly wouldn't want that. He'd have to rearrange his schedule.

How can this administration have the money to fund a completely new campus, a proposed $16.9 million facility for the Core Curriculum Proposal, and yet still lack $500,000 to continue funding for journalism? If this administration wants to make this university "more user-friendly," then maybe it should put its money where its mouth is.

Just after Sypherd's announcement, a freshman journalism student called the Wildcat. He said the journalism department was his main reason for coming to the UA. All we could say was "sorry" and we recommended that he call Sypherd's office.

The student said he doubted the provost would listen to what he had to say.

Sadly enough, he is correct.

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