By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
When the lights went out on the journalism department last night, 200 students were fighting to make sure it does not happen again.
The students were part of a fact-gathering forum for the Faculty Senate special committee studying the proposed elimination of the journalism department. Last month, President Manuel T. Pacheco seconded Provost Paul Sypherd's recommendation to eliminate the department by 1998. The Arizona Board of Regents will have the final say after the committee studies the issue and reports to Pacheco.
After the lights which were accidentally shut off came back on, the students shared stories about how the department's "open-door policy" attracted them to the "nationally ranked" department.
BZ Zeller, a journalism senior, said he chose to come to the University of Arizona because he mid
was impressed with the greeting he received when visiting the department.
"I shook hands with journalism professors, not teaching assistants, and took home their names and phone numbers," he said.
Graduate student Elizabeth Nida said she also was convinced to come to the UA after department head Jim Patten met with her last summer.
"I was impressed with the warmth and professionalism and interest he showed me and that has been nothing short of excellent ever since," she said. "I have been able to get one-on-one attention whenever necessary."
Other students also shared stories of walking down the "hall of professors" in the Franklin building and finding every door open, as well as having professors track them down to tell them about an internship opportunity they were eligible for.
"We care about the journalism professors because they have cared about and taught us," said Jon Burstein, journalism and political science senior and Arizona Daily Wildcat opinions editor. "I have rarely seen such dedication to teaching."
Interdisciplinary studies sophomore Kimberly Nielsen said, "These are professors with a passion who love what they are doing and share it with the students. They say 'we have journalism in our blood.'"
The students said the department is an example of a program that already meets the university's newly proclaimed goal of improving undergraduate education.
Through the depart-ment's individualized teaching, journalism students learn skills like conducting in-depth research, analysis, and clear and concise communication. These lessons will help them get jobs in journalism and would also be applicable to "any job they chose," the students said. And the UA journalism graduates do get these jobs, the students said, citing examples of students who were hired by newspapers including the Tucson daily papers, the Dallas Morning News, the Portland Oregonian, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Times and the China Post.
Students expressed confidence that "when I graduate in May I can honestly say I will be ready" and that they are "certain (they) will be readily hireable." When one student referred to the frustration of having a story returned "dripping with red ink," the students in the audience laughed and nodded in agreement.
Monty Phan, a journalism senior and Wildcat sports reporter who recently switched from the college of engineering, said he was told at previous engineering internships at Motorola that engineers "don't use what they learn in college and have to learn on the job."
"In the journalism department we aren't given mock assignments or problem sets, we are writing news stories every week," he said. "We won't need on the job training, we are already doing it."
Donine Henshaw-Dominiche, a graduate student, said she agreed. "In class, students are researching stories and writing on deadline just like at a real paper . covering city courts and researching records." She asked whether students without this training are "the type of journalists you want bringing you the news?"
"The administrators don't know what they are throwing away with this department, or maybe they do," said Susan Knight, a journalism graduate student. "They are stopping people who are trained to think critically and write about them."
Beth Silver, a journalism senior and former editor of the Wildcat, said she thinks cutting the department would hurt the quality of the Wildcat and said that "no news really is bad news."
"Do you want to see the Wildcat deteriorate into a publication without integrity, without an idea?" she said.
This concern was echoed by Sarah Garrecht, editor in chief and a journalism senior.
"While the Wildcat is not formally connected with the journalism department, we rely on the fact that we will have a steady supply of qualified, interested students who are willing to dedicate their time and talents to producing a daily newspaper," she said. "Without the department, the Wildcat would not have the training ground, point of reference or understanding of what it takes to produce a daily, independent paper."
The department's commitment to minority students through the summer minority editing program and job fairs should be continued, said Hanh Quach, a journalism sophomore.
"If the university truly treasures minority students as much as they say, they would retain this program," she said.
Although most of the students who attended the forum said they will not be directly affected if the department is eliminated, some said they may be unable to finish.
"If the department is cut, it is unlikely I will be able to finish," said Maria Ramirez, a journalism junior and mother of three. "If I cannot finish, I cannot move and my education will be finished. I don't want another major; I don't want another job."
Zeller said the students would also suffer from not having a department to come back to for references. "I want my future employer to be able to call the department and not hear a recording that the department is no longer in service," he said.
Melanie Harrice, a graduate student who organized the student speakers, said she was "really pleased with the turnout and the incredible amount of support from students."
Journalism Professor Bill Greer said he agreed.
"I think it is fantastic that so many students showed up," he said. "It is wonderful that so many students care."
The scheduled two-hour forum was extended to allow the large numbers more students to speak.
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