The Journalism Plus plan does not apply to the graduate journalism program at Boulder, though its fate is also uncertain. Every six years, the Accreditation Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications evaluates the school. In March, an on-site review team determined that the master’s news-gathering program was non-compliant in the areas of administration, student assessment, and diversity, but voted to award provisional reaccreditation. A committee of the council overruled that vote, however. Traditionally, reaccreditation is denied to any unit that is out of compliance on more than two standards (the undergraduate journalism program at Boulder was non-compliant only in the area of administration and received provisional reaccreditation). A final decision will not come until the full council meets at the end of April.
Whatever happens, the graduate journalism program at Boulder will be “restructured,” according to the memo from Benson that endorsed the Journalism Plus program for undergrads.
“Whether the master’s program is de-accredited or not, the faculty who are reconstituted in the new [journalism] department will have to revise the graduate curriculum—that is simply overdue,” Yulsman wrote in an e-mail. “So if we can stay focused on opportunities and not grievances, we could create quite an innovative program and continue to attract top-notch students.”
Yulsman said that this year’s incoming class of environmental journalism master’s students was “among the very best” he’s had since joining the faculty in 1996. Moreover, throughout this saga, the widely respected Center for Environmental Journalism—one of four centers and special programs at the journalism school—has received “unstinting support from the university’s administrators.”
“I would not be surprised if we experienced a drop in applications to our graduate level environmental journalism program during the next couple years,” Yulsman wrote in an e-mail. “But I’m beginning to think that by reinventing the curriculum, and strengthening already robust ties to Environmental Studies and other environmental units on campus, we could come out of this stronger than ever.”
His optimism notwithstanding, Yulsman was disappointed by the decision to close the journalism school, and he wasn’t alone. Last week, University of Colorado regents Monisha Merchant, Sue Sharkey, and Joe Neguse wrote an open letter explaining why they voted against the resolution to discontinue the school.
“For 49 years—nearly half a century—the School has provided a quality and first-rate education to generations of journalists across the State of Colorado and our great Nation,” they wrote. “Simply put, it has stood the test of time, and though it may be ripe for improvement, closing the School itself for ‘strategic alignment’ purposes was undoubtedly a drastic option.”
The dissenting regents voiced some support for the School of Information, Communication, and Media Technology and Journalism Plus plans. But the fate of teaching news gathering at Boulder remains uncertain.
“We won assurances about the future of journalism education,” Yulsman wrote. “Now, we’ll work hard to make sure those assurances are honored.”