SJMC discontinuance continues with release of recommendations

One of three models could be adopted

Administrators released on Tuesday, Feb. 15, an action plan that advances the process of discontinuance for the University of Colorado Boulder's School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC). The committee charged with recommending a new entity to replace the school also has released its final report.

The Journalism PLUS Action Plan, presented by Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano, outlines procedures necessary should President Bruce D. Benson and the Board of Regents act to discontinue the school. The plan concerns the education and graduation of current and future SJMC students, reaffirms the regulations surrounding employment of faculty, and commits to helping find positions for current staff members.

Provost Russell Moore released the final recommendations of the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Exploratory Committee that include three models focusing on interdisciplinary work across the campus.

The committee's vision, according to the report, would allow CU-Boulder to become "globally known for modulating the future in ICMT (information, communications, media, technology)." The new entity, said the report, "should educate students who understand not only how to advance the state of the art in information-, communication- and media-related technologies, but also how to comprehend and interpret their aesthetics, history and meanings."

The committee was formed in September 2010 to examine the assets of the university and recommend different organizational structures that would emphasize information, communication and technology research and scholarship.

The first model – Model A – cited by the committee in its final report, would create a School or College of Information, Communication and Media Technology. The new entity, according to the report, would focus on the intersections of technology with information, communication, and media; would create interdisciplinary curricula; and would foster interdisciplinary research and creative work across subdisciplines.

Model A would offer "degrees, concentrations or certificates in such fields as Digital Media and Creative Arts; Transmedia and Cross-Platform Journalism; Scientific and Health Informatics; Information and Media Law and Policy; Information Technology and Computational Literacy; and Media Management."

Students from different degree programs across campus could enroll in the school/college's offerings, and majors from the new school/college would be encouraged to pursue a second major "as a way of acquiring an especially dynamic and well-rounded education."

The advantages of the model, said the committee, would be the enormous potential to interact with local, state and regional entities – businesses and journalistic and artistic communities. The disadvantage, said the report, is that a "traditional School or College is not the most limber of beasts." The school could lose sight of its interdisciplinary mission and not meet the needs of the rapidly changing world.

The second model – Model B – would create an Institute for the Global Digital Future where "research, scholarship and creative work" would be "undertaken by faculty fellows and by Institute faculty," similar to other institutes on campus.

"The Institute will especially focus on the contemporary problems, challenges and opportunities of information, communication, media and technology. This focus will provide a logical and consistent core of inquiry from which many other threads of discourse can spring."

The goal of Institute, said the report, will be "problem-oriented" and allow faculty and fellows to examine public issues such as health care, education, homeland and national security, journalism and digital media and arts. In essence, teams would develop technological prototypes to help solve social issues, and forecast the future of information technology.

Model B's advantage is that it would be adaptable and flexible; its disadvantage is that it would not "reach into the intellectual growth and development of undergraduates," the report said.

Both models would stress interdisciplinary work, something current SJMC faculty members have struggled with for years because of the school's inherent administrative structure.

During its assessment of university assets, the committee "identified more than 150 faculty across approximately 50 units across campus who have research and creative interests intersecting with this area."

A new entity could create the infrastructure to "support and nurture bold scholarship and creative work, to increase the connections among these faculty and, through additional strategic hires, to add to these strengths," the committee said.

The third model, Model C – the one supported by the committee – would establish both a School or College and an Institute. "In the absence of the new School or College, the Institute would lack a solid and continuing intellectual community grounding its work. In the absence of the Institute, the new School or College would be pulled away from innovation and currency. The committee envisions that if both are established, the Institute's innovative research and creative directions would be closely tied to the more grounded and enduring aims of the new School or College. At the same time, Institute research and creative work would flow back into the School or College, keeping its curricula and ongoing research and creative work vibrant and current."

The committee acknowledged that establishing both a School or College and an Institute would require substantial financial and physical resources, but said "for CU-Boulder to become a national and global leader in creating, using and understanding this new world, the campus needs a matching institutional activity. The proposed School or College and Institute are an appropriate structure to provide both a campus focus and a campus resource so that CU-Boulder can realize its potential as a global voice in information, communication and media technology."

DiStefano said the companion Journalism Plus Action Plan was created "based on the premise that the Board of Regents will vote to discontinue SJMC while continuing journalism education."

That plan promises to meet commitments to students. The SJMC curriculum will be maintained for current students and those admitted in Fall 2011 until May 2013. In Fall 2012, students will be able to pursue a double major in journalism and another subject or pursue a major while earning a certificate/minor in journalism.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty will have several options, including "moving to a unit in the graduate school, joining other units on campus, leaving the university or moving toward retirement."

The plan also says the campus "will make every reasonable effort to find a new position" for SJMC staff members.

The formal process of program discontinuation for the SJMC began Sept. 1. In late August, university officials announced that the institution was considering closing the traditional journalism school and formed an exploratory committee to weigh the possibilities of a new interdisciplinary program of information and communication technology.

DiStefano said the process of discontinuance was necessary "in order to strategically realign our academic strengths and resources" in a way that will "meet the needs of our students, the labor market and our rapidly changing global society."

According to the process timeline, President Benson has less than 60 days to make a discontinuance recommendation to the Board of Regents.