Faculty should show support, not point fingers

A supportive team is what’s needed in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.

In the recent visit by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, the accreditation team found the Florida A&M University SJGC compliant in eight of nine areas.

The lone weakness identified by the team was found in the category of Mission, Governance and Administration. The team sited that “the division has undergone change, some of it turbulent since the last visit and some transition is still occurring.”

Since the last visit the former dean, Robert Ruggles, abruptly resigned in dispute with the university administration before the new journalism building’s completion.

James Hawkins was named interim dean and took on the task of seeing the new facility completed. The process included major restructuring of the television and radio integration that had been contracted to a company that literally came unglued. Hawkins had to straighten out this and other building related issues that were left undone. For his efforts he has received little or no accolades, especially from the school’s faculty.

In fact, during the search for the permanent dean, of which Hawkins was a candidate, one white journalism faculty member tried to give his students extra credit for attending the interview of a white candidate. When students asked if the extra credit would be extended if they attended Hawkins interview, he told them to forget about it. Of course, Hawkins became dean to the dismay and chagrin of many on the journalism faculty and the overwhelming delight of most of the student body. Hawkins has been such a vital part of the development of the school that many students thought he was the dean long before his appointment.

To his credit Hawkins has begun the process of leading the school in a new direction, one more in line with advances of our industry. Our board of visitors now has the executive director of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the president of the American Urban Radio Network, a representative of ABC news, the director of human resources for the Professional Golf Association Tours and a representative of IBM.

Hawkins is currently seeking partners in the magazine industry because the Division of Journalism has been teaching magazine production and design for two decades, but doesn’t have any relationships with that segment of the industry.

FAMU-TV 20 has returned to its rightful place and has a new studio to call home and has a state-of-the-art teaching studio for students to learn how to direct, produce and develop TV programs. WANM 90.5, highly regarded as one of the best college radio stations in nation, will soon be broadcasting from its brand new home thanks in large part to Dr. Hawkins’ vision and negotiation skills with key vendors.

Indeed the site team found that the school’s five-year graduation rate is 58 percent, significantly higher than the university’s five-year graduation rate of 35 percent. Sounds to me like the SJGC is heading in the right direction, albeit a new direction from the past.

Change is never easy, especially after 29 years. With Dean James Hawkins the SJGC is moving toward becoming the university’s next “center of excellence.” Hawkins needs an administrative team and faculty that will assist him in achieving that goal, not those who would attempt to sabotage this progress by resisting change and holding onto the past. If some journalism faculty members would jeopardize the school’s accreditation in an effort to try and have the dean removed, what does that say about them?

Keith Miles is an assistant professor of journalism. He can be reached at keith.miles@famu.edu