Op/ed contributor: Journalism Department belongs in College of Liberal Arts

By Venise Wagner, Journalism Department Chair

The University Planning Advisory Council has placed before the faculty three options for reconfiguring the University from eight to six or seven colleges. The proposed change will ostensibly save SF State $1 million. The University must find a total of $33 million in savings to plug a budget deficit.

The reality is, none of the choices before us serves education. Though this vote is critical, it has little to do with education. This is a choice driven by dollars or the lack thereof.

When looking at these options, it’s easy for one’s eyes to glaze over wondering: what does it matter which college a department resides in?

The truth is, it matters plenty to some disciplines. A college home influences a department’s identity, culture, value set, integrity and viability. A department looks to its college for support of its curriculum and educational priorities.

In the case of the journalism department and communication studies, the collective wish is to be in the newly formed College of Liberal Arts alongside departments with which it has natural affinities. This is why we choose alternative No. 2, which would place us with anthropology, international relations and other more similar disciplines.

Journalism is primarily a writing program that teaches critical evaluation and analysis of information.

Our students learn ethical guidelines of accuracy, fairness and balance in reporting, and storytelling. Our curriculum focuses on the practice of journalism as an agent of social change: To afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, to help society understand the human condition in all of its variations. Our students leave the program understanding this critical role of journalism in a democratic society and they take the role seriously. Our students learn the craft of storytelling in a variety of formats for print and online. Even our photojournalism students must complete rigorous writing requirements for their degree.

Additionally, all of our majors are required to complete a minor in a liberal arts and science discipline and many choose minors in humanities, political science, international relations, foreign languages, literature, Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, philosophy, and American studies.

Our program is thriving as a result of these relationships.

Our alumni have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes for their journalistic work at highly regarded papers such as the New York Times, and others have gone on to publish non-fiction books on subjects ranging from the life of Henry Aaron to the Tailhook military scandals of the early ‘90s.

The journalism department has a long history on this campus and we believe that this department’s viability will be threatened if moved to any other college.

Some may say, “isn’t journalism dead?” Our response is a resounding, “no!” Journalism is merely evolving with digital formats and we are on the cutting edge of that evolution. Our curriculum has remained current and relevant to these changes and we continue to experiment with the intersection of technology and journalism.

Our ability to continue on this pioneering path is threatened with a reconfiguration that takes us out of the college in which we belong, the College of Liberal Arts.

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