ORONO, Maine — One of the University of Maine’s most popular academic departments is undergoing big changes, including the elimination of two programs in part because of budget cuts.
The advertising sequence in the Department of Communications and Journalism will be phased out over the next two years, said department Chairman Paul Grosswiler, and declarations for the public affairs minor will also be suspended.
There are about 60 students in the advertising sequence, which is a concentration within the journalism major. About 43 will be able to finish in the next two years.
Students were notified of the change a few days before the start of the semester.
“It’s been pretty popular,” Grosswiler said of the advertising sequence. “Sixty students is a lot of students. That’s as many students as some majors have. I think it would be a big concern and I’m concerned the university, in order to try to cut budgets, is also cutting resources.”
Last fall the department had around 350 undergraduate majors, which makes it the second-largest major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Psychology has the most majors, said Jeff Hecker, dean of the college.
The department offers undergraduate degrees in journalism, communication and mass communication. The journalism major had more than 200 students last fall.
Introduction to Advertising offered in spring 2009 will not be offered again, so students who have completed the course can move on to the four other advertising classes. Those classes will be phased out by Spring 2011.
Students who did not take the introduction class or did not earn a grade of C-minus or better in the class will not be able to complete the sequence.
Part-time faculty will teach advertising the next two years.
The communications and journalism department had already been considering a reorganization in the wake of a regularly scheduled external review of the department when several faculty positions were vacated. Last year, assistant professor Changmin Yang, who had been teaching advertising, left UMaine. His position was not filled because of budget constraints.
The external review, which is conducted every seven years, recommended an integration of journalism’s three sequences — advertising, news editorial and broadcast — into one to get away from a media-specific approach.
“What the external reviewers found was that it makes more sense to eliminate this concentration system and develop a more general journalism degree,” Hecker said. “My encouragement to them was to revisit their curricula and see what we can continue to do with good quality with the faculty we have.”
The department faculty and staff are in the process of integrating the two remaining sequences, Grosswiler said.
The public relations minor is being suspended, Grosswiler said, because full- and part-time faculty positions aren’t being filled. There weren’t enough faculty to teach the minor’s gateway course, Public Relations, which all students in the minor have to take. Hecker said there were 34 students signed up for the minor.
Reaction to the changes has been minimal, but Grosswiler said a larger concern is for industries and institutions that rely on communications workers to release information.
“I think we’re losing the ability of communities and states and beyond to have trained people in communication positions,” he said. “I think that worries me more than anything, considering the amount of information that’s circulated that doesn’t go through anybody who has basic training in journalism and communications.”