Student Publications Board releases statement to address censure, university processes

The Student Publications Board released a statement Nov. 29 that addressed its concerns with the university administration’s decision to change student media advisement and the process they took to make their decision. 

Glenn Stephens, chair of the Student Publication Board, called for the meeting to discuss the statement after the College Media Association censured the university Nov. 26.

“The board believes students are best served by the current system under which they are advised by, and exposed to the guidance of, an experienced media professional who is dedicated to this important role,” according to the statement. “We believe students’ engagement with an adviser with extensive experience in the profession is invaluable to their development.”

Stephens said it dismays him that the administration has not seen fit to at least have some discussion about the situation. He said the administration never consulted the board before the removal of Student Media Adviser Scott Morris.

The board questioned and discussed the university’s timeline given to The Flor-Ala and students in response to the censure. Ross Alexander, vice president of academic affairs and provost, sent an email to students Nov. 26 that stated the university began discussions in late 2014 to upgrade the position of student media adviser to a tenure-track faculty position.

“My recollection of what was discussed before does not match what’s being put out,” said journalism professor and board member Jim Martin. “The three-year discussion that they keep talking about was only a discussion about moving from oversight of the (former Student Affairs Vice President) David Shield’s office to the Department of Communications.

Martin said the board created a resolution to move student media and its advisement from Student Affairs to the College of Arts and Sciences but changing the structure of its advisement was never a part of the discussion.

Gregg Pitts, former chair of the communications department, said if the university claimed discussions to change the adviser position to a tenure-track line in late 2014, it did not begin with him.

“If anyone asserts that I made this request, I would describe their claim as false,” Pitts said. “At best, a wrong conclusion and at worst, a distortion attributed to me because I am no longer at the university and part of the discussions.”

Pitts sent a memo to university administration Dec. 7, 2014, to affirm he believed it was time to move student media to the Department of Communications, but the memo did not give a recommendation to change the status of the student media adviser.

Martin raised the question if the censure will put the communications department’s accreditation standing in jeopardy with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Right now, UNA is one of 115 schools out of 1,000 to be accredited through ACEJMC, according to their website.

“Their excuse is ‘we are doing this for the reaccreditation’, which does not seem to be following the facts,” Martin said. “It seems to me that someone is trying to rewrite the narrative to make it appear that this has been planned ahead of time.”

Beth Garfrerick, communications professor and board member, said she believes all parties involved can still rectify hope despite the recent censure.

“The board agrees with the suggestion of the College Media Association that the university would be best served by ‘a formal dialogue among relevant student media stakeholders — including campus administrators, academic department leaders, the current student media adviser and Flor-Ala student leaders — to find a solution’ to the conflicts that have surfaced,” according to the statement.

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