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IU journalism school fights for independence

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Indiana University's century-old School of Journalism is fighting for its independence after the university's provost proposed merging the school with other communications departments and placing the new entity under the jurisdiction of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel said in her first State of the Campus address earlier this month that she'll recommend that mass media studies be rolled into one new School of Communication, Media and Journalism.

The move to put the journalism school back under the College of Arts and Science's umbrella has rankled many students and staff. The school separated from the college in the 1980s and became an independent school within the university.

Interim journalism Dean Michael Evans told the Bloomington Press Club last week that a merger would increase the school's resources and bring together different faculty members. But he balked at losing the journalism school's independence and said there is no precedent for moving an existing school inside a college at IU.

"I have been in favor of the idea — carefully worded — the idea of a merger, because I think properly done, a merger could be wonderful in a lot of ways," Evans said. "I am adamantly opposed to moving it into the college."

Robel's proposal sparked a backlash from students, faculty and alumni who say it will decrease the presence and prestige of journalism, affect tenure and promotion policies and put the school into a culture where it doesn't fit.

"It was broken off in 1989 for a reason," J.R. Ross, a former IDS editor, Associated Press reporter and president of the IU School of Journalism Alumni board, told The Herald-Times. "Why you'd try to pound this round peg into a square hole 20-plus years later makes no sense to us.

"One of the messages the provost delivered was that by doing this, it would create efficiencies," he added.. "Adding another layer of bureaucracy does not look like an efficiency. This is 1984-speak if I've ever heard it."

Many also have voiced concerns about the future of Ernie Pyle Hall, the building that houses the journalism school. Robel's plan would move journalism into a renovated Franklin Hall.

A Facebook page titled "Save Ernie Pyle Hall" had more than 800 likes as of Friday.

Robel said she understands that a school with 100 years of history will be protective of its legacy and reputation but stressed that the new school "comes with incredible possibilities."

"The thing I think is important to keep our eyes on is we're talking about creating something better. Not getting rid of something good," Robel said.

Robel's recommendation goes to IU President Michael McRobbie and the Board of Trustees for consideration.

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