Dean finalist proposes more collaboration between college’s media fields

By Campus Reporter

Eric Freedman, a finalist for the position of dean of the School of Media Arts, spoke to the college community Feb. 10 about his intentions to make connections and inspire collaboration in his potential position.

According to a Feb. 12 emailed statement from Cara Birch,  the college’s spokeswoman, there were eight semi-finalists and two finalists for the position; only Freedman was invited to provide a public forum.

Freedman, the current dean of the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina, said he has sought to forge relationships engaging with programs in the media and liberal arts throughout his career.

“Every media ecosystem is unique,” Freedman said at the presentation. “In a School of Media Arts, we can think about broadening the engagements we already have.”

Freedman said he sees that Columbia has a great amount of momentum. He said the college can build on pre-existing connections  and create new connections with various entrepreneurial sectors, new industries, communication vectors and media industries.

“All of these prospects are aligned with the forward trajectory of the media and the communications field,” he said.

Tom Dowd, associate chair of the Interactive Arts & Media Department and a member of the dean search committee, said the committee is seeking a candidate  to represent all of the faces of the School of Media Arts.

“We are a lot of things right now,” Dowd said. “Finding somebody who could wrap [their] hands around all of that and guide, contribute and lead was paramount. ”

Michael Caplan, an associate professor in the Cinema Art + Science Department, commended Freedman’s familiarity with the subjects and difficulties in the School of Media Arts, but said he felt much of Freedman’s speech was too conceptual and not grounded in what faculty and staff do every day.

“I felt like he had a great deal of experience and knowledge about media arts administration in academia, but I did not feel like he expressed a vision of how he saw Columbia,” Caplan said.

Caplan expressed concerns about Freedman coming from a university as universities typically emphasize research whereas Columbia focuses more on fine arts, crafts  and hands-on types of media production. 

“[Research] has never been the main emphasis here,” Caplan said. “I do not see why there could not be an openness to that. It just has not happened until now.”

Following the presentation, Freedman met with student leaders from the Student Government Association, Student Organizations Council and the Renegades in The Loft of the 916 S. Wabash Ave. Building.

Caplan said he thought Freedman’s meeting with the students provided them with a better perspective of him.

Erika Kooda, a junior radio and business & entrepreneurship double major and the SGA’s executive vice president of communications, said Freedman reached out to the organizations to gain a stronger understanding of the Columbia student body.

“[The meeting] was insight as to what else we could do to better the student body, such as opening the door for collaboration between  the departments and the students,” Kooda said.

Kooda said Freedman presented research as improving in the arts.

Ayrika Craig, a senior advertising major and the community director of Student Organizations Council who attended the meeting, said she was concerned that Freedman was avoiding questions students asked that were relevant to diversity.

“When the question came up about diversifying the curriculum, it was a go-around answer,” Craig said. “One of my main concerns for being a student at Columbia is striving for diversity.”