President supports campus recommendation for SJMC discontinuance

Benson will make presentation to Board of Regents at this week's meeting
By Staff

University of Colorado President Bruce D. Benson supports the campus recommendation that CU-Boulder's School of Journalism and Mass Communication be discontinued. He also wants the university to continue to offer a bachelor's degree with a double major in journalism and another discipline.

His recommendation follows the Journalism Plus Action Plan developed by campus leaders and presented to the regents at their February meeting. Benson will present his recommendation to the Board of Regents, meeting Thursday and Friday at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

In an April 1 letter to Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano, Benson said he had reviewed all documents, including the report from the Program Discontinuance Committee; met with faculty, alumni, donors and other interested parties, including the Colorado Press Association and media experts; and members of his management team before reaching his decision.

"Journalism education at CU has a rich history, strong demand, a successful track record ... and meets a significant need in our state and nation," wrote Benson. "Additionally, journalism plays a substantial role in a democratic society, a factor that should guide our thinking going forward."

DiStefano and other university leaders told the regents in November that discontinuance was an important step in moving forward journalism education at CU. At the meeting, some regents supported the decision but others were unsure if closing the school and creating a new entity was necessary.

The regents, who heard public comments and discussed the matter at their February meeting, must approve the discontinuance before the plan can move forward. This is the first time in CU history that discontinuance has been considered for a school.

Along with issuing a double major, the master's degree program would be reconfigured under the Journalism Plus plan.

Outside accreditors last week recommended that the master's newsgathering program should lose its accreditation, according to a story in the (Boulder) Daily Camera. The committee said the graduate program was not consistently rigorous. According to the story, other accreditors previously had said the school should receive "provisional re-accreditation," but listed problems such as weak leadership and faculty factions.

If the regents approve discontinuance, DiStefano has recommended that the "dean of the Graduate School appoint a chair for the department effective July 1, 2011. The chair, working with faculty, members of professional associations and media leaders will begin to develop the journalism education curriculum" that would take effect in the fall semest er of 2012.

The Journalism Plus Action Plan can be seen here. The final recommendations of the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Exploratory Committee can be seen here.