Department's fate rests with commission

By Ann McBride

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Seventeen months after being slated for elimination, the UA Department of Journalism is in the midst of a reprieve.

President Manuel Pacheco postponed a summer ruling on the possible department closure, choosing to wait until a report is completed by the Commission on Communications and Information. The commission, which includes Jim Patten, head of the Journalism Department, has met regularly since mid-August. Provost Paul Sypherd directed the commission in a February 1995 letter to discuss and report on the future of communications at the University of Arizona, with particular emphasis placed on how it should change in "the areas of study and scholarship relative to the media, and how best to utilize the talent currently at the UA."

In a June 28 memo addressed to Patten, Pacheco said he had two options in regards to the department.

One option was to ignore the future report from the commission and base his decision solely on available information. Or, he could choose as a second option to wait for the commission's report, noting, "Nothing that we might do now could not be done in six to nine month's time, and the report can reasonably be expected to be significant for the field of journalism in the future."

During a July 6 interview, Pacheco said the commission's purpose is to look at the future, not the past.

"This commission is taking its own tack. Their job is not to review what was or what has happened or what the recommendations were. ... Their role is primarily to tell us what the future should look like," he said.

During the interview, Pacheco said that the department's "status quo could not continue. So, we either have to have an improved method of delivering those educational services or else we need to cut it out."

Patten said it is difficult to assess what impact this new direction is having on the journalism department, as professors are busy with daily teaching and tutoring responsibilities.

"Just going up and down the halls, it doesn't seem to be any different than it's ever been," Patten said.

As for the future of the department, Patten is pleased with the progress of the Commission on Communications and Information.

While he would like the process to move a bit faster, he is confident the group will produce a report that should satisfy all parties.

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