Journalism treads fine line between restructuring and elimination

Journalism education is

not a part of the inner

circle at the UA.

That does not mean there is no place for it on the edge.

And, even though University of Arizona President Manuel T. Pacheco believes it is a part of the periphery, he is nonetheless "optimistic" that a new commission at the UA will come to an agreement regarding the journalism department that all parties will find agreeable.

No matter what, things are going to change.

"The quality, regardless of what anybody says, is not where it needs to be. It hasn't been for a period of time," Pacheco said during an interview in his office July 6.

In a memo dated June 28, Pacheco stated that he was delaying a decision regarding the Journalism Department until a report is completed by the Commission on Communications and Information.

Pacheco said the decision made by the Faculty Senate on May 8 to veto the provost's recommendation, had no bearing on his decision. He said he "almost decided to go ahead and make a recommendation that (the department) close down" because he was under so much pressure to make a decision. He felt he could not make the best decision possible without waiting for the commission's report.

"What I predicted was going to happen, is exactly what's happening. I am being criticized greatly . for not having made a definitive statement about keeping journalism. I knew that was going to happen and I'm pretty tired . of the criticism that is coming. That would have been an easy way to just simply end the argument and move forward," he said.

When asked why his

decision could not

be to maintain the department, he said, "I don't have any context within which to do that . There's no question that the status quo . could not continue."

The Commission on Communications and Information and an advisory committee of media professionals were formed in February and originated from Provost Paul Sypherd's office, said Liz Armandroff, special assistant to the provost. The groups were commissioned to study the role of communications and how it will impact the UA in the future.

Pacheco said the goal of the Commission on Communications and Information is to construct a program that meets the university's institutional requirements for academic excellence while also allowing communications faculty to participate in teaching and research that "you would expect at a Research 1 university."

The president said the commission has not been given the restriction that "each part of what now exists has to be identifiable." It is to develop an "overall vision" of what is needed for the future.

While Pacheco said the purpose of the commission is not to decide on how journalism will fit in with the plan of the future, he did say that "there are a number of journalists and people from print media represented there (on the advisory committee.)"

The advisory committee will provide "advice about what the information (and) journalistic needs of the 21st century are going to be and to provide advice then to the academic units regarding how the university should fulfill those needs," Pacheco said.

In the June 28 memo, Pacheco said he faced two options: "One is to ignore all possible impacts of the eventual report from the provost's commission, and to make a decision based solely on my appraisal of all the reports, recommendations and comments that have reached me over the past year," or his second choice was "to recognize the advantages in waiting until the commission's report is available. Nothing that we might do now could not be done in six or nine month's time, and the report can reasonably be expected to be significant for the field of journalism in the future."

Jim Patten, head of the department of journalism, said he can understand Pacheco wanting to wait until he has all available information, but he does not feel the commission will require six to nine months to deliver a report.

"I fervently hope it doesn't take that long because we have been in limbo an awful long time and we need a decision," he said.

Pacheco was also hoping for a quicker process but he said he was told by members of the commission that the report would require six to nine months.

Patten said the first he heard of this timeframe was in Pacheco's memo. Efforts to reach the chairman of the commission, Professor Jay Nunamaker, were unsuccessful.

The commission has met twice on May 3 and June 12, said Vice Provost Ken R. Smith, a member of the commission. The first meeting was a brainstorming effort held in conjunction with the advisory committee. The second meeting was held with representatives of various UA communication departments. The advisory group has not met independently, only with the commission on May 3.

Patten was asked to be a

member of the advisory

committee on February 28 and has attended both meetings.

Smith said a future meeting date has not been scheduled for the commission, but that a fall meeting schedule should be completed within a month. He said it is difficult to conduct meetings during the summer because so many people have prior commitments.

Smith said the initial meetings were positive.

"People have recognized that there's an opportunity here to look at the future in an unconstrained way and think about what is happening in this whole area of communications and information sciences and how that might affect our educational research programs," he said.

Pacheco said the commission's purpose, while it may refer to past information, is not to review previous rulings or recommendations.

"Their task . is primarily to tell us what the future should look like," he said.

A group similar to the Commission on Communications and Information was appointed by Sypherd in 1994. It, however, disbanded after two meetings.

Patten said it was not as serious a group as the commission appears to be.

Pacheco said that, perhaps the group was unsuccessful because it was comprised solely of internal members who had "vested" interests in the process.

"I did not get a feeling . that there was a sense of a common interest for the institution," he said.

Donald Hatfield, editor and publisher of the Tucson Citizen and a member of the advisory committee, said the role and purpose of the two groups were discussed at the first meeting.

"It was a matter of getting people together saying what should this university be addressing in the future in a new age of information," he said.

Another member of the advisory group, Edith Auslander, felt the group's objective was clear: "To look at education related to communication fields and how they relate to each other."

She is "hopeful" after the initial meeting saying that "people seem to want to work together . in a creative way." Auslander felt the key players were present and that it was a "good start."

Patten said postponing a decision about journalism should not adversely affect the department.

"I am operating under the assumption that the words in the President's memo mean what they say and what they say is he sees no reason . that students can't register for journalism . To me that's the operative sentence," he said.

Patten said he plans to move ahead with the idea that journalism education has a future on the UA campus.

"I think that is what he is saying," he said.

Auslander said she is heartened by the president's reference to continued journalism majors and that his decision to wait for the report "is preferable to affirming the provost's recommendation to closing."

In 1991 the journalism department had 11.5 full-time faculty members. It currently has six. Patten said he has been unable to replace the faculty and therefore, has utilized "entirely too many adjunct faculty members."

He said the number of journalism classes has not decreased because he has been allowed to hire the temporary faculty members.

Pacheco said journalism education can contribute to the university by offering a solid undergraduate program which he believes the department was "doing a good job" of. He said the central core of the faculty is eroding and that with one exception, they are not "vibrant developers" of the discipline.

Pacheco said he must see a report from the commission that not only provides for strong undergraduate education but also makes provisions for faculty members to be developers of knowledge and contributors to the development of their discipline.

"I will not recommend the continuation of a unit that does not have those two elements."

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