Friday, December 21, 2007

Controversy at Northwestern's Medill School

Two articles (attached below) on the subject of our new Dean at the Medill School of Journalism (John Lavine) report partly on my opinion of the Dean's actions. The Chronicle articles are, in general, more accurate and on point. In general, I agree with his conclusions and reading of various audit reports on the immediate past and future of Medill. However, I have taken exception with his announcement that "faculty governance has been suspended" at Medill. Since my appointment by Dean Bassett in 1989, I have worked for 7 Deans (Edward Bassett, Michael Janeway, Acting Deans Abraham Peck and Jack Doppelt, Ken Bode, Loren Ghiglione and John Lavine. Dean Lavine is the first Dean to give direct attention to the IMC Department and to show a willingness to offer undergraduate courses in IMC and PR. One Dean, Michael Janeway, was rebuffed when he attempted to "cleanse" the School of the popular undergraduate courses in Advertising and Direct Marketing. For many years we have flown below the radar for the School. Despite the lack of recognition in the School, the University has called us a "excellent skunk works" (a compliment)and supported our decisions as a faculty on tenure and new curriculum. In general, we have enjoyed relatively positive relationships with the very practical journalism faculty. I have successfully co-taught courses with Associate Professor George Harmon (business editor and full-time faculty). Our relationships within Medill faculty have been very constructive so it concerned me that the Dean (with tacit support from the University administration) took away the committee and faculty power of the School. Even though I agreed that the School needed a stronger plan and direction to be a competitive part of NU as a research 1 level university, I was concerned that the Dean's "heavy hand" was a negative force for the reputation of Medill. A truly independent faculty in a controversial area such as journalism could not be strengthened or built if there was a threat of administrative control over research and teaching. I expressed my concerns a number of times to John Lavine. At one early point he agreed that he "would not say" the offending terms, but he continued to act on them. Finally, I was asked as a member of the University version of a "senate" (General Faculty Committee) as a representative of Medill to report to the GFC on the Dean's actions. The members of the GFC were concerned from reading various articles in the University publications and from word of mouth. They were worried that the Dean's actions were a violation of University policy and the general traditions of "the academy". While I advised the Dean that the GFC had taken up a discussion on his actions (truth to power), I was also advised by the GFC leadership they would call the Dean for a Q&A before acting. During the change in GFC leadership and Medill's representation on the GFC; action was taken without the invitation to the Dean. This was unfortunate, but the final message to the Dean from the GFC was not entirely inaccurate. Since that time the Dean has continued to implement the 2020 plan for Medill with a smattering of support and input from independent faculty. The final outcomes may be worth the planning, hiring and aggravation. However, the means to the end may still haunt Medill until we can demonstrate our progressive spirit as an independent and thoughtful faculty and student body.

From Chicago Reader Blog
Lavine's absent accusers
November 16th - 6:21 p.m.

Because the future of journalism is so unclear, the curriculum changes at the Medill School of Journalism can't easily be criticized on the grounds that they're not preparing students to function in it. Who knows? So the case against rampaging dean John Lavine, who took over Medill almost two years ago after running Northwestern's Media Management Center, is anchored by the charge that he's left his faculty out of the process. Last June the university's General Faculty Committee unanimously passed a resolution that found Northwestern's “suspension of faculty governance at [Medill] to be unacceptable and in violation of the University’s Statutes.”

On November 12 Lavine and his students engaged in a Q & A in Fisk Hall. Lavine shrugged off the resolution: "The issues they had are not really issues with us, they are issues with the administration." He conceded that the faculty weren't all enthusiastic about the changes, but journalism has changed and "can we really stay where we were?" Here's a partial transcript of the proceedings.

The occasion might have been much more dramatic. Two recent grads, Andrew Bossone and Camille Gerwin, tried to organize a confrontation where someone would rise and read aloud a petition signed by some 80 alumni. It began, "As a member of the alumni community of the Medill School of Journalism, I endorse changes to the school that will improve the quality of the education for students, enhance the reputation of the program and add value to the diploma that I hold. I believe, however, that any changes should be taken with careful consideration and deliberation. These changes MUST include votes from all faculty members . . . "

The petition concludes, "It is [the faculty's] right to decide on the future of the school. It is also their right to express dissent without fear of losing their jobs. I therefore endorse this petition to immediately restore faculty governance to the Medill School of Journalism."

If all had gone as planned, that person would also have read a two-page letter (pdf) by Gerwin and Bossone to the board of trustees that expressed their "concern and discontent." "To begin with," they wrote, "we are appalled at the manner in which these changes are being implemented. Because faculty governance has been suspended, Dean Lavine has been making changes unilaterally or with staff members that support him indiscriminately. Those who have expressed dissent have been demoted or forced out . . . "

If Bossone and Gerwin had been on hand, they might have stood and delivered. But Gerwin is now working in Boston and Bossone in Cairo, Egypt, and from those great distances they could locate no one willing to lead the charge. So the moment passed. The petition and the letter were simply e-mailed and snail-mailed to the trustees and to provost Daniel Linzer. By Friday afternoon there'd been no response.
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Tags: Medill School of Journalism, John Lavine, Andrew Bossone, Camille Gerwin
NU faculty rips Medill
June 22nd - 1:22 p.m.

The faculty senate at Northwestern University has formally accused NU’s administration of abolishing democracy at the Medill School of Journalism. A resolution passed unanimously June 6 by the General Faculty Committee says it found NU’s “suspension of faculty governance at [Medill] to be unacceptable and in violation of the University’s Statutes.” The resolution predicts “curricular changes that are ill considered . . . the demoralization and enmity of the faculty . . . damage to the national reputation of the School . . . the loss of and the inability to hire faculty who believe that the faculty’s role in governance is important for students, faculty and the public.”

The backdrop to this blunt resolution is a series of internal and external audits in recent years that judged Medill--which enjoys seeing itself as a journalism school without equal--as an academic basket case. President Henry Bienen and provost Lawrence Dumas stepped in. Skipping the usual faculty search committee they named John Lavine (pictured) the next dean in late 2005, and in early 2006 they booted aside the incumbent, who had months to go on his contract. Lavine was already on site: he was the founding director of NU's Media Management Center, a fee-charging profit center housed in the journalism school.

An article on Lavine in the fall 2006 issue of the university alumni magazine said he’d been given “free rein to transform the school.” It explained that Bienen and Dumas “suspended formal faculty oversight at Medill for the 3 1/2-year transition period in which Lavine will shepherd the integration and revamping of the [Integrated Marketing Communications] and journalism programs and faculty.” IMC and journalism are Medill’s two basic divisions.

The resolution continues, “If the Administration in the future concludes that an unacceptable academic situation warrants the temporary suspension of the normal role of the faculty ‘to prescribe and define the course of study’ [a quote from NU’s statutes], such suspension should be only for a set, limited period and only after formal approval by the Board of Trustees made after the consideration of the views of all concerned faculty.”

Medill professors I’ve spoken with say a three-and-a-half-year suspension is hardly “temporary.” And it’s news to them if the Board of Trustees had any say in the matter, let alone heard from “concerned faculty.” The GFC resolution was signed by the committee chair, law professor John Elson, and submitted to Bienen and Dumas. They apparently haven't responded. Elson wouldn’t comment, but Lavine did. He said the GFC didn’t talk to him before it acted, and its members obviously don’t know what he knows.

And what’s that? “We’ve had more faculty involvement in the last 18 months than in the decade before that. We have 12 major committees reaching across the entire faculty.” True enough about the dozen committees. But unhappy professors say Lavine just pays lip service to them. A new curriculum is going to be introduced over the next four years, and although professors have been consulted individually, one told me, “We don’t vote on anything. We have no vote. Anybody who dissents is labeled ‘antichange.’” Another outsider heads up the new curriculum project--Mary Nesbitt, who'd been (and remains) managing director of the Media Management Center's readership institute before director of the women-in-newspaper-management project at the Media Management Center until Lavine brought her over.

Lavine wasn’t blindsided by the resolution. Clarke Caywood, who teaches PR and marketing for the IMC side of Medill, was on the GFC when the resolution was proposed, though not when it was voted on (he says he'd have voted "aye"). He says, “I told Lavine a few months ago--truth to power--‘You should know it’s coming.’ His reaction was, ‘I think I’m doing the right thing.’ I don’t disagree with him, but I think his way of doing it leaves something to be desired.” That said, Caywood believes that the Medill faculty has long had a "passive-aggressive" relationship with the administration, with unwillingness to get involved running a close race with willingness to take offense.

A J-School Adapts to the Market -
The Chronicle of Higher Education ... At the center of the controversy is John Lavine, who became dean in January 2006 after founding and directing ... - 29k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this
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