Letter to the Editor: Comm. Studies Department belongs in AMD

Some smart and passionate faculty members and students have been engaged in a spirited debate about the future destination of the Communication Studies Department in college restructuring. I believe the right choice is Arts, Media and Design (AMD), where the School of Journalism already has seen an opportunity and cast its lot.
Moving the department to AMD would be consistent with proven practices in the communications area. University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg School for Communication may be the best example, but there are others, such as our city neighbor, Boston University’s College of Communication. USC Annenberg, for my money, is high on any list of most innovative communication schools in the American academy, something I have followed since my days at the Los Angeles Times in the ’90s.
USC Annenberg has all the communications disciplines in-house, along with an assortment of forward-looking centers, such as a Center on Communication Leadership. Many of those areas that are in dispute on our campus appear to be accommodated in some form or other. Its Communication Department, which lives alongside Journalism and others, has organizational communication, rhetoric and political communication, interpersonal and health communication, and media, culture and communication. A new dean can help us sort that out here, and there is time to align scholarly interests in agreeable ways once the new school begins operating.
Northeastern’s AMD has an opportunity to take this model to the next innovative stage by housing some other creative disciplines together and positioning us all on the cutting edge of the 21st century. Surely most students and applicants intuitively will make sense of having all these disciplines under one roof. To assign the communications people to the College of Social Science and Humanities could create confusion at a time of opportunity for thematic coherence. Students and their parents may wonder:’ Why are some media people in one college and others in another? And you say you just went through reorganization?
What ties all these together is the prospect of a university that serves society with the best communication leadership, in all its dimensions. To this we will be adding the other creative enterprises of architecture, art, music and theatre, and expanding our notions of public communication to embrace all forms of public expression.
One thing I can tell you from my early work with the other chairs in the new unit is that we are all open, collaborative and mindful that academic rigor and a certain measure of informality can sit at the same table. With this spirit in mind, the scholarly concerns of faculty on the non-media studies side can be addressed at AMD to include an appreciation of both their traditional and new forms of research. Interdisciplinary hiring and tenure and promotion committees can insure that research aspirations and finished work get proper consideration.
A wise journalist once said to me that the most passionate advocates of the First Amendment are often those who have endured adversity in their own personal experience. This is true in a sense within AMD because there are battle-tested scholars in these units who through their own tenure and promotion journeys have argued successfully for appraisals that consider a variety of work.
AMD seems a way to take the proven best-practices model of schools of communication, and add things that will get people’s attention and advance this university’s leadership aspirations. By combining elements of traditional schools of communication with the other units in arts, media and design, suddenly Northeastern has yet another opportunity to do something exciting.

‘- Stephen Burgard is director of the School of Journalism.

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