WEB UPDATE: SMPA to renew stagnated search for director

Posted Wednesday, July 13, 11:01 p.m. University officials will conduct a new search for a School of Media and Public Affairs director after neither of two finalists for the position were selected.

GW administrators were set to choose between media personality Marvin Kalb and Robert Entman, an author and professor of communications at North Carolina State University.

Kalb, who has strong ties to the University through his GW-sponsored radio show “The Kalb Report,” withdrew himself from the field in late April. Entman, the remaining candidate, has been chosen to join GW’s faculty as an SMPA professor rather than as the school’s leader.

Explaining his decision, Kalb cited frustration over a lengthy selection process that has lasted since last fall.

“I had been disappointed with a number of things that I heard about the (selection) process itself, including some of the (GW) personalities involved,” he said in an interview this month. “The process was simply taking too long.”

Kalb declined to name any professors or issues specifically, but said there were several factors that forced him to reconsider a position in GW’s communications and journalism school.

“When I learned of the attitude of a number of faculty members I thought it would be wise to withdraw myself and that’s what I did,” he said, adding that a new search would probably start in September.

Amid ongoing curriculum changes, including the phasing out of the electronic media major and tweaking of the school’s journalism program, the director search has proved to be complicated after the former interim director, Al May, left at the end of the 2003-2004 academic year.

University officials and professors are still discussing the direction of the school, with some wanting to see it give students a more practical and hands-on media education; others want its curriculum to focus on theory. Kalb, a veteran CBS and NBC correspondent whose radio show focuses on the experiences of notable journalists, likely drew criticism from professors who want the school to have a more theory-grounded curriculum.

Steve Livingston, interim SMPA director and leader of the six-person committee charged with finding a new leader for the school, did not elaborate on the specifics surrounding Kalb’s decision. He also did not say why Entman was not chosen for the top post.

A number of professors also would not comment on any possible problems that would have persuaded Kalb to disassociate himself with the search. Entman was contacted for comment but did not return calls as of press time.

University officials told The Hatchet they hoped to have the position filled by July 1. Livingston, who has held the temporary position for the last year, said a new search has not yet begun, and added that he does not know when a permanent director will be in place.

At a Board of Trustees meeting in February, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the hunt was stagnating and added that a six-member search committee headed by Livingston was asked to “go back and double up on (their) efforts.”

In May, the University announced that the Law School dean post, which also remained vacant since around the time of May’s departure, would be filled. In addition, a new dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs was picked two months ago, leaving the SMPA director post as the only top academic vacancy at the University.

Livingston said he looks forward to beginning another search with the same criteria outlined during the last director hunt. In the job description advertised in national newspapers and academic journals, the University called for an “ideal applicant in the midst of a distinguished career that prominently features the consideration of the media and policy, politics and public life.”

Livingston also said he is “thrilled” that Entman will be joining the University as an SMPA professor, adding that Entman’s time at GW will be better spent as a teacher rather than as an administrator.

“(As a professor) he won’t allow himself to be distracted by writing memos,” Livingston said. “His energy and his focus will be on teaching and research.”

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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