The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools made a recommendation the week of March 29 not to renew the contracts of any professors within the FAMU School of Journalism & Graphic Communication who do not have a master’s degree.
SJGC Dean James Hawkins said he understands a master’s degree is a university requirement to be a professor, but in the journalism and graphics industries, experience is equivalent to a degree.
Hawkins said SJGC hires professors using a two-track policy. Professors can be hired on either the tenure track, which requires a lecturer to have a master’s or doctorate, or the professional track, which calls for professors to have at least five years experience.
“We have recommendations from the SACS team, and they have identified 10 people whose credentials didn’t meet the requirements: four full-time professors and six adjuncts,” Hawkins said.
He added that all 10 professors have years of experience in their field, which is enough to teach.
Keith Miles, who manages FAMU’s radio station, WANM 90.5 FM; Ernest Jones, who manages FAMU TV-20 and Ron James, graphic designer for the university, are three out of the four full-time professors who will stay employed in their Administrative and Professional positions, but will no longer be allowed to teach.
However James has already submitted his resignation.
William Jiles, the fourth full-time professor cited by SACS, said he is affected most by the decision. Jiles has been an employee of the school since January 2006. He was officially notified Tuesday of SACS’ recommendation.
“I agree with the dean,” Jiles said. “My years of experience surpass a master’s degree. Peter Jennings only had a high school diploma and his ability to perform was never questioned.”
Jiles, who has more than 20 years of television experience, said much of his focus this semester was the Advance Television News course, which produces a live 30-minute newscast for FAMU TV-20.
Donnitra Gilbert, 22, a fourth-year broadcast student from Ft. Lauderdale, said she feels the recommendation made by SACS was unfair.
“It’s taking away some of the core professors in the School of Journalism,” she said. “The program won’t be the same without them. In the field of broadcast it’s more experience rather then education.”
Gilbert, who is a lead anchor for FAMU TV-20, said she also feels the newscast will not survive without Jiles.
However, Jasmine Frank, a third year public relations student from Dayton, Ohio, takes a different view. The school needs to address the issue in any way SACS sees fit, she said.
“This issue needs to be fixed,” said Frank, 21. “With the school having issues like this, it makes me rethink if I want to graduate from here. Future employers may question my work ethic. The school I attended is a reflection of me.”
Frank said it is unacceptable to have professors who do not meet the requirements teaching classes.
“They knew before being hired that they didn’t meet the requirements,” Frank said. “Whoever hired them, it’s their fault.”
Terrance Ward, 23, a graduate of the broadcast sequence, said he thinks the program is going to suffer in the long run.
“Our field of work is more based off of experience and that is what has helped the professors relate to the students,” Ward said.
Ward said he has been enlightened by instructions from professors such as Harold Uzell, who is an adjunct graphics professor that does not meet the master’s requirement.
“I really enjoyed his class, and the fact that he has his own graphic design company is very influential,” Ward said. Hawkins said he is working diligently to correct the problem before the December SACS review.
“We are going to require employees in the A&P positions to earn their master’s in three years,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins also said no official actions have been made regarding Jiles’ employment for the upcoming school year.
“I am extremely pleased with the faculty and really appreciative of the contributions they have made to the program,” Hawkins said. “In each case, each professor has brought professional experience that we felt students should practice.”
Hawkins is scheduled to update the faculty at the regular monthly meeting today. Provost Cynthia Hughes-Harris will meet SJGC faculty members to discuss the SACS recommendations on Tuesday.