Department shuffling shortchanges students

The Marketing Communication Department will be disbanded and its three concentrations will merge into other departments in the fall 2014 semester, according to a Feb. 17 memo from Robin Bargar, dean of the School of Media Arts. Current marketing students will be allowed to complete their degrees.

Nevertheless, dissolving the Marketing Communications Department could have serious repercussions for the two that absorb its students.

The email explained that the Marketing Communication Department would make current concentrations new majors, with public relations and advertising merging with the Journalism Department and marketing being absorbed by in the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management Department.

It is a curious move to place public relations, advertising and journalism in one department considering they are ideologically opposed as professions. Public relations and advertising revolve around selling a product, which usually involves portraying that product in the best light possible regardless of controversy, whereas journalism revolves around seeking the objective truth. Jumbling the programs together juxtaposes two opposite facets of communication.

Lumping public relations, advertising and journalism all in one department could save the school money, but there would be deep fissures between both the faculty and students, and it is possible that employers assessing the quality of the college program may question its validity. Journalism students can land public relations jobs, but public relations does not always transfer to a journalism career, and if employers read that the majors are all housed in one department, they might question the overall educational quality.

While Bargar’s memo said the reconfiguration will “create new opportunities for collaborations,” the underlying motive, as always, seems to be money. The Marketing Communication and Journalism departments have been consistently losing students and both logged some of the biggest drops in enrollment this semester. The budget, which is largely tied to enrollment, is a legitimate problem, but this is not the way to address it. Enrollment in the Marketing Communication Department fell by approximately 9 percent since last year, but the college still has an agreement with its 544 marketing majors to deliver a quality education.

Suddenly dividing the department and forcing new students into departments not ready to accommodate them will not only be a disservice to marketing communication students, but also to the faculty and students of journalism and AEMM. The college has scheduled a number of forums for the coming week to address students’ concerns about the transition, but with the deal already done, the hearings are little more than a formality.

Instead of hastily shoving half the marketing students into one department and pushing the rest in another direction, they should all go to the AEMM department. AEMM majors are already required to take marketing classes as a part of the management aspect of their program, and although the students produce different products, the ideology and core skills are similar. It would be a much better fit than bundling journalism, public relations and advertising just because they all use communication media.

It also seems suspect that this move has come before the college hires a new provost, which it is set to do later this semester, as reported Sept. 9 by The Chronicle. He should revise the department changes to place former marketing communication students in an appropriate program for their education and for the benefit of the college as a whole.