Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Hubbard School? Really?

From Chuck Turchick, on the recent announcement that the U will be re-branding the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Dear Dean Coleman,

With great sorrow and disappointment, I read the recent news items about the renaming of the U's School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Of course, in your public comments you weren't in a position to raise questions about the propriety of naming schools after corporations, but it seems to me this goes against everything an academic institution stands for.

When the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and the Law issues a study or a commentary about some practice of the Hubbard Broadcasting Corporation -- or worse, doesn't comment when academic analysis and critique would be expected --  how can I not have serious reservations about the credibility of that Center?

Hubbard Broadcasting itself should be similarly concerned. If there is a scandal within the Journalism School, I surely won't be tuning in to KSTP-TV to find out about it.

I assume that neither the School of Journalism nor the College of Liberal Arts approved this name change without serious discussions, probably with many academics dissenting from the final decision. But what an opportunity this would have been to engage the entire University of Minnesota community in such a dialogue. What is the role of academia in the modern corporate world? What should be the relationship between the academy and various sectors in the larger community? In a time of diminishing public financial support, how can the University move forward without seriously damaging its credibility? Maybe that public discussion did take place, and I simply missed it.

This isn't about Mr. Hubbard's political views. It is about the University's ability to credibly analyze and critique societal institutions from an arm's-length position. Even if you are only honoring Stanley Hubbard, his name is so attached to the corporation in the public mind that many will not make such a fine distinction.

I can appreciate that as a dean, you are now in that netherworld between the university as a business and the university as an academic institution. Even so, there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. For me, this is one of them.

Sincerely yours,

Chuck Turchick
Alumnus and Continuing Education student 

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