Here at UND, there is some tension in the School of Communications. None of the students are privy to the complete story, and I am not going to speculate on what happened. However, this lack of information lead to a walkout last Tuesday by the students, demanding that they quit disrupting classes (ironic, slightly) and that the administration explain what is going on.
Here are the facts, which I know to be credible, reportable, and true:
- SComm lost it's accreditation in the early 1990s (a fact that my advisor neglected to mention, and is not stated on it website)
- The place has had multiple problems with tenured professors becoming the director, and then causing problems when new people becoming directors. (massive power struggles). This has lead to the school not be able to get the accreditation back, (and a problem seemingly unable to fix: you can't fire tenured professors). This also means that the SComm keeps getting funding reduced by the University.
Unrelated, but adding to the tension
- Last year, the director of the Native Media Center, Mr. B, was invited to a panel discussion organized by Prof. L. The panel was poorly organized, and Mr. B ended up feeling snubbed. When he talked to Prof. L, Prof. L felt intimidated and filled a restraining order against Mr. B. (difficult, since they work in the same building).
- Mr. B recently was in a vehicle with Student Professor X. Mr. B died falling from this vehicle.
Directly related to the tension:
- SP X has recently filed a restraining order against the Director of SComm (again, a problem since they work in the same building). This has lead to classes being cancelled because of court hearings, and stressed professors.
I don't know why SP X filled restraining order. I don't know if Mr. B's death was accidentally (I have not heard of any investigation). I do not know who's primarily to blame.
I DO know that there is a series of informal alliances/enemies between professors, which leads to minor power struggles for classrooms, equipment, and offered classes, all of which disrupts students’ lives. I do know that these struggles can be either for the student's "advantage" or "disadvantage" (if you play it right, you can get into, out of, homework, tests, and other things). I do know that I don't like classes where the professor is tense and I do not like that this makes the professors even more unapproachable. I do know that grown adults (ESPECIALLY in this field) should know better than to act like ego-laden children. And finally, I do know that if you teach journalism to a bunch of already interested students and then expected them to a) not notice problems and b) not expect them to want to know what's going on is at best willfully ignorant and at worst and insult on our intelligence. Finally, I do know that this in-fighting is making a communication degree useless (and is one of the contributing factors of why I'm moving to aviation).
The picture above is from the resulting walkout. The protest was mostly organized by the Dakota Student, and about 25 students actually stayed there the whole day. Many students did walkout, not in support of the demonstration, but because they felt it was a good excuse to not be in class and make up some work. Some professors were harsh towards those walking out, some were very lenient. Kupecella, our Dean, (being the absolutely worthless excuse of a student administrator that he is, but that is a different rant) issued "no comment". Our Provost, however, formally came out in support of the students and demonstration.
The walkout was a result of students feeling frustrated: frustrated with the "Closed lips" policy, frustrated that they may have wasted 4 years (and a lot of money) frustrated with not learning anything. This was, they felt, the only way to get attention: students have asked for information, now they demanded it.
On the other side, some felt that this was "airing our dirty laundry" as it were. They felt that further disrupting the process was harmful, that the demonstration was a result of impatience, and that the problems were not the students concern and would "work themselves out".
I tend to come down on the side of the protesters. I feel every avenue was covered before it came to the demonstrations. I also tend to believe that the administration and faculty do not have the right to play Russian Rolette with our tuition money.
I can understand the "let's not tell anybody" view though, as well. SComm is the campus joke: I swear if I hear the communication department is having trouble communicating pun I'm going to scream. But hiding the problem doesn't make the problem go away: only through light can the darkness be vanquished.
Still, I'm leaving. Aviation, here I come!