The University’s changing priorities led to the cancellation of Communications Day 2013, University administrators said.
A communications department project since 1992, the daylong event brought prospective students to campus to sample some of what the program had to offer through a series of media-related workshops and keynote speakers.
The department was forced to pull the plug on the 22nd annual communications preview after administration decided not to fund the event.
“The decision, ultimately, was mine,” said Interim Provost Jonathan Reed, who at the time worked as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“It had to do with resource allocation. Do you take resources and put it into an admissions event, or do you take resources and supply the programs?”
Communications is an impacted major, meaning more students apply for the major than the school can accommodate.
The University saw communications majors more than double from 115 students in 2009 to 243 in 2013 — an increase that factored into Reed’s decision to nix the event.
“An investment in an admissions event that gets even more students is probably not the right direction to go,” Reed said.
Although the communications major is impacted, some department faculty said they were not happy with administration’s decision to pull back on the department’s recruitment.
“We think that’s incredibly short-sighted in the department, because we’re recruiting the best students, and it’s a great promotional tool,” said Don Pollock, professor of communications and station manager for LVTV.
The need for more equipment and resources in the communications field also swayed Reed in his budget re-allocation.
During the last five years the University invested in a fully-equipped production truck for the department and began efforts to move computers over to high definition, Reed said.
“All these things are expensive,” Pollock said.
“As we begin to move to 4K that will take a whole other expenditure if we’re going to be competitive … and want to give our students the best experience.”
Despite its cancellation, department faculty said they are proud of what Communications Day accomplished in its two decades.
“We did it all by ourselves,” said George Keeler, communications department chair. “The day was ours to plan and to carry off, and we did it with flourish for 21 times.”
But Communications Day did more for the department than just increase its numbers, Keeler said.
“Because of Communications Day, we became pretty famous,” he said. “It jetted our reputation ahead of the school and put us in the elite company of the communication schools in this region.”
The event also helped give the University’s communications program an identity.
“You can drive by this University and you don’t really know what’s inside any building unless you visit,” said Mike Laponis, professor of communications and general manager for LeoFM.
“The ACB is this sort of unassuming converted lemon-packing house, and you don’t have any idea that there’s a radio station in it, and a TV studio, and a couple of computer labs where they produce news for web and print. So when you come in to partake in the day, you’re blown away,” he said.
It was Laponis who initially approached the department to suggest a day geared toward introducing communications to prospective students.
During his time coordinating the event, Laponis said he noticed Communications Day also resonated with students.
“There’s no better way to learn something than to try and help others learn it,” Laponis said. “I don’t think I realized how much they loved it until we didn’t get to do it. That’s when I really realized, ‘Oh! Current students here enjoy it just as much as I do.’”
Communications Day may not happen next year either, but administration has not yet entirely dismissed the event, Reed said.
“If the students and faculty really want this, it can be brought back,” he said. “It’s not a final decision.”
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.