SMPA begins new search for director

University officials will conduct a new search for a permanent School of Media and Public Affairs director this fall, after the search stagnated this summer with neither of two candidates being given the school’s top slot.

The new search has not yet begun, and University officials would not give a timetable as to when the SMPA would begin fielding new applicants for the directorship. GW administrators previously told The Hatchet they hoped to fill the position by July 1, but that date came and went as the year-long search proved to be difficult.

Interim SMPA Director Steve Livingston said the school is in “no rush” to place a new director, and would not comment on any potential applicants for the upcoming search. Ken Goldstein, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin and a previous candidate for the spot, said he has already contacted SMPA to renew his interest in the school’s leading post.

“I remain very impressed by SMPA,” Goldstein said. “The school has great potential.”

Goldstein withdrew himself from the field last spring in light of family health issues, leaving GW administrators to choose between remaining finalists Marvin Kalb, a national media personality, and Robert Entman, the author of several mass media books and a professor of communications at North Carolina State University.

But Kalb, who has strong ties to the University through his GW-sponsored radio show “The Kalb Report,” withdrew himself from the race in late April citing frustration over the lengthy selection process. Entman, the remaining candidate, said he wasn’t offered the director post but will join GW’s faculty as an SMPA professor in January.

In an interview last month, Livingston would not elaborate on the specifics surrounding Kalb’s decision and did not say why Entman wasn’t chosen for the job. But amid ongoing changes within SMPA, including the phase-out of the electronic media major and tweeking of the journalism program, faculty members have become somewhat divided over the school’s educational direction.

While some professors favor a hands-on media environment, others are pushing for a more theory-based curriculum. Kalb, a veteran CBS and NBC correspondent, likely drew criticism from faculty members who want the school to have a more theoretical focus.

“I had been disappointed with a number of things that I heard about the (selection) process itself, including some of the (GW) personalities involved,” said Kalb, who did not name any professors or issues specifically.

“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 added.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg acknowledged the ongoing difficulties of the search.

“These sorts of things happen from time to time. They have to do with departmental circumstances, personalities, different disciplines, slip-ups,” he wrote in an e-mail last month. “I’m personally disappointed that it may take another year.”

Despite complications, Livingston denied any tension among the SMPA faculty and 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.”

In May, GW announced that the Law School dean post, which remained vacant for almost a year, would be filled. This summer the University also appointed a new Elliott School of International Affairs dean, leaving the SMPA director post as the only major academic vacancy at the University.

“The person that we hire will do the best job,” said Livingston, adding that he expects to fill the position at some point in the upcoming academic year.

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