Humanities and Social Sciences Dean, John de Castro, fielded questions from over 30 Mass Communication students yesterday while discussing departmental updates, including the resignation of Department Chair Dr. Janet Bridges, and problems at a second Town Hall Meeting of the school year.
De Castro painted a generally optimistic picture of the Mass Comm. Department for the future. He said that there was a tremendous commitment by the University, the President, the provost, his office and the college of Humanities and Social Sciences to build a Mass Communication department that is nationally recognized.
He began by saying that he regretted Dr. Janet Bridges’ resignation because she has worked “incessantly and long hours for the department.” De Castro also told students that the department is actively looking for new faculty positions, including an intern chair, which will replace Dr. Bridges this summer, a permanent department chair and a ‘Dan Rather Chair.’
He mentioned that the University has invested a little under a third of a million dollars in new equipment for the department, including new transmitters, computers, cameras and even a new van. He also said that the University is breaking ground this summer on another academic building, which could possibly free up space in the Dan Rather Communications building for more faculty members.
Despite all of the seemingly positive changes in the Mass Communication Department, de Castro also touched on some of the problems the department has experienced in the past few years.
“We recognize that there are problems in the department,” de Castro said. “But changes will take time.”
After de Castro delivered his departmental updates, students were given a chance to freely express their opinions on the Mass Comm. Department. One student came forward to comment on the general discontent with the education they are receiving from some of the faculty members.
She said that there is a language problem with two of the professors and one of the professors rarely holds class. In response, de Castro said that he understood the issues with the professors, but students should be patient because the problems are not something that can be addressed instantly. He did say, however, that the student evaluation forms prove that the professor ratings in the Mass Communication department are the lowest in the university.
“I consider it an embarrassment,” he said. “[Evaluations] are the lowest in a department that prides itself on its teaching ability.”
Other students expressed their issues with the professors, claiming that even though there are some great professors, others are unprofessional and show obvious favoritism.
A number of students brought up the issue of equipment at the meeting. They said that outdated, inappropriate and shoddy equipment is affecting the level of education they are receiving.
“We are never going to have state of the art equipment,” de Castro said. “We just cannot afford it.”
In response to this, students maintained that they did not expect ‘state of the art’ equipment, and that if the little problems were taken care off, such as new batteries and cleaning tapes, they would have no problems utilizing what they had.
Their concerns prompted de Castro to actively ask the students to compile a list of minor equipment problems so that the department could look into solving these issues.
Along with an abundance of questions, students had prepared written oratories expressing their qualms with the Mass Communication department. Travis Ray was the first student to stand up at the podium to deliver his speech, describing department that has let him down. Mathew Carey also took to the podium and passionately told de Castro and students that the department turned into something that he had never expected.
De Castro responded to these students’ apprehensions, as well other worries about the department, but students in attendance were in general agreement with one student that voiced her opinion regarding the worth of her SHSU Mass Comm. Degree.
“It’s upsetting to see students get stuck and have nothing to show for their work,” she said. “It’s unfair.”