Heads of the University of New Mexico Communication & Journalism department are uncertain whether or not they will go forward with being re-accredited by an outside organization due to the cost and demanding requirements.
The department first received accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) in 1955. The ACEJMC’s task is to accredit professional journalism and mass communication programs at universities and colleges across the country, according to the council’s website. Departments and programs are not required to go through the accreditation process.
C&J Chair David Weiss said the department does not have the funds to go through the process — around $30,000. He also said ACEJMC requires yearly dues of $2,000 that put additional financial strain on the department, an assessment that Associate Chair Tamar Ginossar agreed with.
“It would be more a financial decision, whether we can afford it or not,” Ginossar said.
Weiss also said the process of performing a departmental self-study for accreditation was particularly time-consuming, especially with the amount of faculty the department possesses. Large appendices are required to be put together before a site visit is performed by ACEJMC.
Weiss said he would be meeting with President Garnett Stokes, interim-Provost Richard Wood, and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Peceny in order to request the funds necessary to be re-accredited. However, he said that receiving the $30,000 would not solve all the issues this process presents.
“Even if (the President) gives me the $30,000, she’s not going to give me the bodies to put those books together,” Weiss said. “We’re a strong department and I don’t know if we’re strong because we’re accredited.”
ACEJMC sets nine standards programs have to meet in order to be accredited, including curriculum and instruction, as well as full-time and part-time faculty ratios. The latter requires that “full-time faculty have primary responsibility for teaching, research/creative activity and service.”
The council last performed a site visit to UNM in November 2013. The department passed and received accreditation, but the team noted in their report that the department “relied heavily for a few years on part-time faculty in excess of accreditation limits.”
At the time, the department stated it would focus on hiring more full-time faculty, including three professors of practice. Currently, Michael Marcotte is the only professor of practice in the department and was already part of the department when the most recent site visit was performed.
Marcotte said he is personally in favor of accreditation, but acknowledges that not everyone in the department feels the same way.
“I’m in favor of it. I think the faculty is a little divided about it,” Marcotte said. “Some don’t care...or they’re not affected.”
He also said it's not just journalism professors have a say on the matter.
“The communications faculty is often part of the discussion and how the budget is spent,” Marcotte said. “They don’t really have a dog in the fight, but they have a vote at the table.”
Marcotte said the drawback to not being accredited would be the negative perception it would create. He added that, while the process can be difficult, it is worth it for the department to go through the process.
“Might be a little work, might be a little money, but the payoff is generally worth it,” he said.
Currently, 112 programs across the country are accredited by the body, with UNM being the only accredited program in the state of New Mexico.
Hwiman Chung, head of New Mexico State’s Journalism and Media Studies department, said they chose to forgo the accreditation process in 2012 because of the costs as well as the lack of freedom accredited programs have over their curriculum.
Gordon Stables, director of the University of Southern California School of Journalism, said the standards set by ACEJMC are not an issue for his program.
“We find value in engaging with the standards and seeing how we match up,” Stables said.
Should the department decide not to be re-accredited, it would be the second time they have done so. Back in 2002, the department declined reaccreditation after hearing the negative feedback from the site visit team. Then-Department Chair Brad Hall also pointed out the immense costs of accreditation.
At the time, longtime journalism professor Hank Trewhitt "said the loss of the accreditation could not benefit the students in any way.”
Marcotte said — with or without accreditation — “we’re confident in the service we provide our students.”
Kyle Land is the editor in chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.