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School of Mass Communications granted provisional accreditation

For students and faculty in the School of Mass Communications, increased assessment and stable governance could be coming soon after a national accreditation committee recommended the school be granted provisional accreditation.

Since Monday, an accrediting team has been on campus reviewing the program, a process that happens every six years. The committee then met with President Judy Genshaft and Provost Ralph Wilcox and recommended to the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) that the schools accreditation be retained but with a two-year probation based on deficiencies in governance and assessment.

One of the members of the accrediting team, Will Norton, dean and professor at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, said he has made it a practice to not comment, but that the teams report is merely a recommendation.

The ACEJMC Committee will consider our recommendation and then the ACEJMC Council will consider the committees report, Norton said in an email to The Oracle.

Interim Director of the School of Mass Communications Gil Thelen, who was appointed to his position last month, said the School plans to improve these problems by the end of the calendar year.

For the assessment component, Thelen said the School will improve its documentation of data and feedback from students.

We are going to take our existing feedback information, acquire more, take that combination and then put it into a formal document which will be very clear about how we go about (assessment) each semester, Thelen said.

Though Thelen said the faculty of school is supportive of his current leadership, he said the committee was concerned about the shifts in leadership over the past 30 months, which included Edward Jay Friedlander who retired in Fall 2010 and Fred Pearce who resigned last month.

They thought the changes in leadership were too rapid, and they wanted more continuity in our program, Thelen said.

Thelen sent a letter to faculty which included other comments from the accreditation report, which stated the majority of School of Mass Communications was in compliance with ACEJMC standards. Also in the letter, were comments from the team including engaged students, fine up-to-date faculty members and complimentary remarks for the internship and Zimmerman Advertising programs.

As the school is still accredited, Thelen said students shouldnt worry about the credibility of their degrees or additional problems with employment after graduation. The final process of accreditation, which will take place later this year by the ACEJMC, still needs two more accrediting agency votes, one in March and the second in May, Thelens letter to faculty said.

Thelen, who said he sought advice from Friedlander who experienced the last accreditation process, said between the initial report from the site team and the final decision later in the year, changes in decisions are not uncommon.

There is a possibility that there will be alterations in the final decision, Thelen said.