Changes Coming to USF School of Mass Communications– School’s Director Surprised By Announcement

The School of Mass Communications at the University of South Florida— which houses the USF journalism program– will soon be undergoing some major changes. And the Spring Break email announcing them in broad strokes came as a surprise to the school’s current interim director.

As The Oracle reports, Eric Eisenberg, a USF dean, recently emailed journalism and mass comm. students to inform them their school will soon be aligned with the School of Information.  Current School of Mass Comm. interim director Gil Thelen will be replaced by the School of Information director Jim Andrews– Andrews will run both schools.

The School of Mass Comm. will also no longer pursue accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).  The council placed the school on a two-year probation after a campus visit in January.

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The alignment comes on the heels of a similar announcement at Indiana University. IU is combining its highly-reputed School of Journalism with a pair of separate programs– the Department of Communication and Culture and the Department of Telecommunications.

The Oracle’s report on this development also arrived on the same day a senior adviser to the Knight Foundation president publicly argued, “[J]ournalism education needs to grow. . . . We think journalism education should become more important. . . . Journalism schools should be nimble. . . . [I]nventing the future of news can’t possibly be achieved by mashing the larger standalone schools into someone else’s college.”

Thelen, the mass comm. school’s interim director, told the Oracle he was not in the loop about these changes.

Here’s a portion of Eisenberg’s explanation to the paper about what prompted him to reconfigure the school: “I’ve been thinking for a long, long time about the changes to the industry and I’ve been trying to figure out whether we’re doing everything we can for our mass comm students to be prepared for the industry in which they’ll apply when they graduate.  It just seems like it’s changing so fast . . . you blink, and like two years later, all the things you thought are going to be useful, aren’t anymore.  I’ve been trying to think about how to embrace that change.  When the accreditors came out, they asked a number of questions.  It really got me thinking ‘You know what?  There might be another path for us at USF.’ . . . I thought about USF’s DNA and what we’re known for.  It seems like interdisciplinary innovation is our thing.”

My Take: If it improves journalism education, so be it.  But it’s strange that the interim director of the mass comm. school was not consulted on such “exciting new changes” to the school he is running.  Notice how often the pronoun “I” appears in Eisenberg’s explanatory quote above.  “Interdiscplinary innovation” sounds great. But such a major reinvention without genuine, prolonged, internal and external collaboration?  Not so great.

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One Response to “Changes Coming to USF School of Mass Communications– School’s Director Surprised By Announcement”
  1. These types of changes seem to be a popular theme ever since the budget issues last year. My brother in law got laid off from his position in the AIDS research dept. my sister also found out that her athletic training program had been cut- 6 months after she recieved her letter of early acceptance.