Potential department mergers need to prove student benefits

By Editorial Board

Several departments housed in the School of Media Arts may be merging come Fall 2017,announced in a Feb. 7 email from Dean Eric Freedman. 

In the email, Freedman cited the desire to overcome obstacles to interdisciplinary study as a reason for the proposed mergers, as reported Feb. 20 by The Chronicle. 

The mergers would combine the Communication & Media Innovation and Radio departments and the Television and Cinema Art and Science departments. The Interactive Arts & Media Department would also absorb the animation program, which is currently housed in Cinema Art and Science. 

Regardless of what department or SMA leadership may think, many students are unaware of the proposal. It’s extremely important that students have a voice in the decision and become aware of the pending changes.

After the first email announcement was sent out, a second on Feb. 14 invited students to attend two meetings to discuss the proposed changes. A reminder was sent Feb. 20 for the first meeting on Feb. 21, which reportedly had a very low student turnout. The second meeting is scheduled for March 15. 

Giving students the opportunity to have their voices heard at these meetings is vital, but the way the invitation is being sent out is obviously not sufficient.

A possible reason for the lack of attendance could be the lack of contact between Freedman and students. Not only are students extremely busy, but unfortunately, they aren’t always inclined to thoroughly read school emails. SMA could have marketed the event by using social media, putting together attention-grabbing tweets or Facebook posts and putting posters up around campus. However, there is only so much a department can do before the responsibility falls to students to actually attend.

Another way SMA can encourage meeting attendance is to describe the benefits of merging departments. These could include more collaboration between departments, which is needed so students can learn from different disciplines across the college.

However, because the benefits haven’t been described in detail, students instead are focusing on issues such as a possible lack of resources. Without clear benefits, students may conclude the mergers are motivated by budget cuts instead of educational quality. This kind of confusion is easily avoidable if SMA provides students and faculty with details of advantages and facts about the mergers.

If these mergers are approved, SMA must swiftly act on any concerns from students. Students deserve that respect from their school. As long as SMA ensures that students are likely to benefit from the  changes, keeps them informed and provides a platform for discussion, the mergers have the potential to be successful.