SMPA future uncertain

University administrators are reviewing findings from a task force that assessed strengths and weaknesses of the School of Media and Public Affairs.

The committee, made up of three SMPA faculty members and several outside experts, submitted its report to the administration Dec. 16. The contents of the report are not public as of yet, and administrators said they do not know when students and faculty will be able to read the results.

Donald Lehman, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, said he is meeting with William Frawley, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, and Al May, SMPA interim director, to discuss the findings. He said they will decide what will happen next concerning the report and that he will be able to comment further after the meeting. He declined to give a time element.

The task force had five meetings throughout the fall before coming to its conclusions.

“I have no clue how the recommendations will be acted on,” said Berl Brechner, a member of the task force.

Several task force members declined to comment on the nature of their findings.

Although they have not read the report yet, several SMPA students said they are concerned about its nature because it could affect their future studies.

“We’re worried because we haven’t heard anything about this. We’re exasperated at the lack of information,” said sophomore Adam Connor, a political communication major.

Some electronic media majors and alumni formed a group at the end of the fall semester to make task force members and administrators aware of the creative and technical aspects that make electronic media unique. Electronic media students take classes on the history of radio and television and do production and hands-on work.

Electronic media, journalism and political communication are the undergraduate majors housed in SMPA.

“A lot of us are concerned that both the School of Media and Public Affairs and GW may be taking the electronic media major in a different direction,” said senior Megan Robertson, an electronic media student.

Students said their concerns began when former electronic media program director David Liban, who had years of experience in production and short film work, left GW at the end of last summer after a tenure dispute.

“As far as I can tell (the fact that the electronic media major might be going away) is why I was not going to get tenure,” Liban said. “GW is not a place that supports the arts, at least not at the administration level.”

He proposed that the creative side of the electronic media program join the art department in order to avoid “the constant dismissive attitude it receives in its current state.”

Lehman declined to comment on the future of electronic media.

Many students said they are worried that if the creative aspect of the program is abolished the program will focus more on broadcast journalism, which is more news-oriented.

“Pushing SMPA solely toward politics and journalism would be a huge mistake,” said junior electronic media major Jesse Krinsky.

However, some journalism students said they hope SMPA breaks down its journalism major into subsections, including newspaper, magazine and broadcast journalism.

Other journalism students said that would benefit from more class variety but like the current structure.

Senior Alex Mizrahi, a journalism major, said he would like to see a sports writing class and other new classes, instead of most of the same courses each year.

Mizrahi said he would also like officials to reconsider the $1,000 fee all SMPA majors must pay. Students must also pay lab fees for certain classes.

-Julie Gordon and Aaron Huertas contributed to this report.

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