SMPA seeks expansion

University budget cuts have forced the School of Media and Public Affairs to abandon plans to hire additional professors, which would allow the school to admit more majors.

SMPA Director Jean Folkerts said the Journalism Program proposed to hire two full-time professors this semester, but failed to receive adequate funding.

She said the school only received enough funds to hire one full-time professor, Mark Feldstein, and find two temporary replacements, Daniel Mydlack and Peter McGrath, for professors on sabbatical and maternity leave.

The school presents faculty and funding requests to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences each year, but some are not met, Folkerts said. She noted SMPA did receive a “fixed percentage budget increase” this year, but declined to specify the number.

Folkerts said the program has been “very active in fundraising” from alumni, outside of the University budget allotment, and the school has a growing endowment. But SMPA can only use 5 percent of donations each year, making an increase in the University allotment vital to hiring new professors.

She said alumni donations are paying for new Shapiro Fellow John Dancy.

Steve Roberts and Carl Stern also hold endowed professorships.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman, who oversees funding for academic departments, said all sections of the University have received “cutbacks” this year, because of the faltering economy since Sept. 11.

Students in the three SMPA programs said limited course sections have prevented them from taking required classes.

“We need more professors,” said Caroline Nisbet, an Electronic Media minor. “I’m a junior and this semester is the first ti

Junior Jamie Meltzer said she is happy there are not “that many requirements to fulfill” for her journalism major because minors and non-SMPA students with priority registration fill up classes quickly.
Senior Erica Tubman, also an electronic media major, said she could not register for an image design course until this year, when the school added an extra section of the class.

Junior political communications major Jennifer Rosenthal said she would like more course options, but she has never been shut out of a class before.

Program directors said they are content with the current amount of funding but they hope to see budget increases next year.

“We would love to have more faculty . we have to work within priorities set by the larger University, and clearly the administration has put resources into SMPA in recent years,” said Al May, director of the Journalism Program.

Director of the Electronic Media Program David Liban said that although there is “an acceptable amount of professors . if we could obtain more, we could better diversify the course offerings.”
Even though professors said they want to add more faculty and students, SMPA classes are capped because of the school’s “competitive environment.”

May said the school is committed to “higher standards” and “we want our graduates to be the best.”

Rosenthal said she likes the program’s selectivity.

“The program should be expanded in the number of students let in, but it still needs to be selective,” Rosenthal said.

The Journalism Program will be adding an investigative reporting class and a second section of “Advanced Reporting,” a required course for Journalism majors, in the spring.

Feldstein, a former CNN investigative correspondent, said he discussed “beefing up” the investigative reporting curriculum when he was hired, and is set to teach the spring course. He said he plans to “turn students loose” to report in the District.

“I’m sure somehow we can find some corruption (in the city),” Feldstein said.

He is teaching “Broadcast News Reporting” and “Reporting and Writing the News” this fall.

An Emmy-winning news correspondent and Shapiro Fellow, Dancy is currently teaching a foreign correspondence and foreign policy seminar.

McGrath, editor of new media for Newsweek, teaches “News in a Digital Society,” a graduate-level course that covers the evolution of news.

Mydlack teaches editing and sound design courses. He’s managed interactive television projects for Microsoft, Viacom and QVC.

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