The journalism and public relations department will be gone after the spring 2021 semester.

Ever dreamed of declaring a major that doesn’t exist? At IUP next year, you can.

Of the many changes announced as part of the NextGen project, the near-total dissolution of the journalism and public relations department was one of them.

However, incoming freshmen will still be allowed to declare a journalism and public relations major.

“It doesn’t bother me anymore that I’m losing my job,” Dr. Michele Papakie, chairwoman of the journalism and public relations department, said. “What bothers me is that the administration is still telling current and prospective students that they can major in journalism and public relations at IUP. I guess the truth is that they can. It exists on paper in the communications media department.”

No journalism courses are available in the summer or fall.

In the course guide for 2021-2022, there will be no journalism and public relations classes under the JRNL prefix. Instead, they will be available under the COMM prefix. These classes include:

summer 2021

COMM 271

Beginning Photography

COMM 303

Screenplay Writing

COMM 477

Freelancing and Entrepreneurship

fall 2021

COMM 270

Sports Communication

COMM 303

Scriptwriting: Short Film

COMM 325

Gender in Media

COMM 407

Television Feature Production

COMM 470

Media Management and Sales

“The chairperson of the communications media department, Dr. Gail Wilson, and I spent the better part of 2020 planning to merge the journalism and public relations department with the communications media department,” Papakie said.

Instead, with the department being nixed, students are able to take communications media courses as a substitute for journalism courses.

However, there is one problem. The communications media courses do not offer writing-intensive courses that aspiring journalists need.

The plan created by Papakie and Wilson would have kept those writing-intensive courses.

“That plan, which had been approved by the provost, would have retained the writing-intensive courses journalism and public relations majors need to be competent in their fields,” Papakie said. “It would have been fantastic for current and future students.”

Also in October, that plan was nixed as well.

“The administration blamed the COVID-19 pandemic,” Papakie said.

The writing courses for journalism are now down to two: screenplay writing and short-film scriptwriting.

“These are of no use to journalism majors,” Papakie said.

The changes also happened amidst IUP’s announcement of a new initiative, called NextGen.

“Under the NextGen initiative, the journalism and public affairs major and minor will be moved from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to the College of Education and Communications,” said Erica Frenzel, IUP’s president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF).

However, students are not receiving all the information needed.

“But what they aren’t telling students is that there is only one journalism professor left to teach it, and he isn’t scheduled to teach any of the major’s courses.

“Students who believe they will be taught how to write journalistically, and practice public relations will find no such curriculum at IUP in the summer or the fall.”

Announced in October, 82 professors at IUP received retrenchment letters. Four of those belonged to the professors of IUP’s journalism and public relations department.

With the retrenchment of four out of five of those professors, the journalism and public relations department would cease to exist at IUP.

The letter stated that those professors’ last days would be June 4, 2021.

Since then, more than half of the retrenchment letters sent by the university have been revoked; however, 37 remain. Of those 37, they include three journalism and public relations professors.

The four retrenched journalism and public relations professors are Papakie, Dr. Stanford Mukasa, Dr. Erick Lauber and Professor Randy Jesick.

Dr. Laurie Miller, also a journalism department professor, announced her retirement at the end of the spring 2021 semester prior to retrenchment letters being sent.

Lauber’s letter was rescinded, and he will be returning in the fall to teach two communications media courses.

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