One day four or five years from now, UA students will come onto campus and find there are no Arizona Daily Wildcats in the newspaper bins. With the exception of a couple yellowed Arby's inserts, the racks will be empty. No more "Police Beat." No more crappy comics. No more columns by snide students. There will be nothing.
About that same time, residents of Tombstone will be asking each other if anyone has seen the latest copy of the Tombstone Epitaph, while in South Tucson, a grandmother will be showing a relative an article about her grandson that appeared in the last issue of El Independiente.
Both the Epitaph and El Independiente are currently run by the UA Journalism Department.
Initially this column was supposed to be one of my lighthearted odes that made fun of the administration, ASUA, UA police and anyone else I can think of. Unfortunately, I'm not in a very funny mood. It is becoming more and more apparent that the Journalism Department is going to be obliterated. This Friday the UA Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, following in the footsteps of a Social and Behavioral Sciences committee, recommended that the Journalism Department be cut. The department is not alone Ä more than 25 other programs face significant cuts or complete elimination. The committee's recommendations only need to go through Provost Paul Sypherd, President Manuel Pacheco and the Arizona Board of Regents. For some reason, I think they'll just nod their heads and say, "Sounds good."
I had never been part of a "protest." As a junior-league reporter, I had always been the objective bystander watching as people yell at each other. Oftentimes, I would walk away from such events wondering why people even bothered.
Last Thursday there was a noon protest by journalism and Mexican American studies students in front of the Administration building. I saw fliers all over the Journalism Department, but I didn't intend to go. I figured there would be enough students protesting that one person wouldn't be missed. So after my class got out at 11:30 a.m., I walked home and began to study for an upcoming test. At about 11:55 a.m., I glanced down at my watch and mentally noted that the protest would begin in five minutes. I went back to reading.
Not my problem. I'm graduating next year.
Then I paused. What was I doing? Some of the best professors that I have encountered at this university are in the Journalism Department. Not only have the professors helped me improve my writing style, but they have been there to give me advice on both school and possible careers. I couldn't sit idly by and watch people I know and care about be callously let go.
And what about the Wildcat? The vast majority of the Wildcat's staff is made up of journalism majors. Journalism majors are usually the only ones crazy enough to submit themselves to daily 5 p.m. deadlines. Without the Journalism Department, the Wildcat will disintegrate. Not only will students interested in reporting not come to UA, but those who do will have no guidance. If you think there are a lot of mistakes in the Wildcat now, you ain't seen nothing yet. What would happen to the Tombstone Epitaph and El Independiente, both newspapers run by the UA Journalism Department? They would die too.
I got up and went to the protest. When I arrived there were about 10 students with signs surrounded by TV cameras, reporters and curious onlookers. Initially, I watched as a member of the crowd challenged some of the protesters.
"Why shouldn't the Journalism Department be cut if they have to cut something?" he asked.
As the debate continued, I began to get mad. Then something inside me snapped and I found myself arguing with people. I found myself raising my voice, something I rarely do. For about 40 minutes, I stood in front of the Administration building, getting red in the face and making wild hand gestures. I thought maybe people would take notice of the protest. Maybe people would change their minds.
But after the crowd dispersed, I reviewed the events of the protest, especially when Holly Martin Smith, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, came down to speak to the crowd. Her speech seemed so rehearsed. It was as if she came down to show that the UA administration cares, but is not listening to students. The decision to cut the Journalism Department seemed to have already been made.
Now some people may be wondering why I have only been talking about the Journalism Department when 25 other departments are being cut too. To be honest, I'm not familiar with any of the other departments in trouble. That's where you come in. If your department is facing cuts or total eradication, speak out. Write letters to the Wildcat. Call administrators. Organize protests. Do something, rather than make administrators' jobs easy by silently acquiescing to the cuts. Now is the time for student voices to be heard.
The cuts may seem to be a done deal, but that doesn't mean we should just roll over and die. For no matter how desperate the Journalism Department or any other department's predicament may be, I still have a glimmer of hope that the administration might listen to the students.
Maintain hope and start fighting for what you believe in.
Jon Burstein is a junior in journalism and political science. Like it or not, his columns appear every Tuesday. He will be opinions editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat for the 1994-95 school year. Read Next Article