While we are encouraged by UA President Manuel T. Pacheco's decision last week regarding the fate of the journalism department, we are disheartened that we should have to wait another six to nine months to be told whether the department will remain open, merge with another department, or be phased out. The president opted to wait until a commission can report on the future of journalism in general and the direction the department might be heading as we near the 21st Century.
The Wildcat has stated on more than one occasion that journalism should not be closed. With this decision we see the possibility of finally saving the department.
Most (if not all) of the professors in the department disagree with Pacheco's decision. This means they will have to remain in limbo for another nine months, not knowing whether they will still be open, merged with another department, or totally shut down once the new committee releases its findings.
We don't blame them. With this delay the journalism department cannot move forward. The faculty cannot bring on much-needed new professors to help with the workload. In the letter announcing the delay Pacheco stated, "that there is nothing in the current situation that should discourage students from declaring a major in Journalism." But students, still unsure about the status of the department, will continue to choose other majors, switch departments, or may even move to other universities altogether. We have already seen Northern Arizona University become inundated with application requests, to which they have had to turn hopeful journalism students away because they do not have the capability of handling an increase in student enrollment in that field.
This decision hints at possible doubts President Pacheco might have about closing the journalism department. In a court of law juries do not find defendants guilty if there is a "reasonable doubt" about their innocence.
If President Pacheco doubts the recent decision to close journalism, he should immediately rescind that decision and set the committee to work to address issues about how to bring about restructuring the department, either by merging it with another unit, such as communications or media arts or solidifying its current form and allowing it to move forward. We understand that is what the commission he has set up is supposed to do, but they will still work under the shadow of doubt of whether the department should change or be phased out.
The journalism department should become either its own entity or be merged with another entity on campus comparable to the field of journalism that the department is committed to being a part of for the future.
The university should not have to struggle with nine months of labor pains when we know President Pacheco can give birth to a decision that would set the university, and journalism, together on a course into a new age of information technology. Pacheco knows that, which is why he is delaying the decision.
We know, on the other hand, another nine months of waiting will only put us further behind in the information race, despite the department's best efforts to keep up with the constant and phenomenal changes associated with the fields of computer and information technology. Despite being kept on hold, the department has made significant steps forward in recent months to bring them so much closer to the field of journalism as it will be in the next century. A swift decision favoring the department and an immediate merger with an information or communications department would benefit the university as a whole, repair the damages done and let faculty, staff and students set about the business we are supposed to as a whole university.
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