Communications school changes core curriculum


“It’s a Heinz dilemma!”  Ethics in the Media professor Jan Hayes said, concerning the new changes to the school of communications curriculum. The Heinz dilemma, as explained in Hayes’ class, is an intricate problem surrounded by many perspectives. It is often illustrated with the example of a man stealing overly priced prescription drugs to save his ill wife’s life.

Beginning in Fall 2015, Hayes’ class will not be a required course for video, film, audio, speech communications, interactive digital media, film studies or animation majors. The school of communications has redacted the requirement of 18 of its courses so students can choose their own courses not based on  common requirements between all the communication majors. Ethics in the Media, Law in the Media and Cultural Diversity are the classes most frequently dropped from the core curricula.

“I think those core classes sensitize students in those issues,” Hayes said. “Of course we want to produce viable media communicators, but we also want to produce thinking media communicators that can make a difference.” 

Hayes has been teaching at Webster University since 1997. She said she has used her ethics background to look at the curriculum issue from several perspectives. She understands the confrontation teachers have faced due to not having enough room in their curriculum to add advanced classes. However, she thinks majors will be missing out on important courses.

“I have sympathy for faculty in different majors that try to fit in all of the things they feel their students need or want in that particular slot,” Hayes said.

Adding advanced classes

On Feb. 17 a meeting for all production majors was held to explain the curriculum change to current students.

Photography professor Susan Stang is an advocate for the revised curriculum and says her students will be more prepared after leaving college due to the increase in advanced courses. Stang revised the photography curriculum, keeping Ethics in the Media but removing 12 credit hours, including Cultural Diversity in the Media and Law in the Media.

Stang said classes like Law in the Media are too broad for her students. She said even though it is removed from the requirements, it will be taught throughout other classes in more specialized ways.

“We cover law directly related to the practicing of photography for our students,” Stang said. “They are not going to work for a newspaper. . .they are going to do wedding photographs. It is a very different thing.”

Students split

Junior photography student Melissa Tucker is currently taking Law in the Media.

“I like the class and think it is helpful,” Tucker said when asked if Law in the Media courses being switched for an advanced course would be beneficial to photography majors.

Tucker will not be changing her curriculum to the revised plan. Students have the option of either staying with their original curriculum or changing to the revised version. Tucker said it would be easier for freshman and sophomore students to switch over, but would be difficult for upperclassmen who have already finished the now removed requirements.

Sophomore David Kirkman is a film production student and thinks removing Ethics in the Media and Law in the Media from the requirements will be beneficial.

“It really frees students up to choose classes we would like to take,” Kirkman said.

Film production has gone from 60 required credit hours to 57 in the recent curriculum change. Other majors have taken a bigger cut to their requirements, including photography, which has gone from 60 required hours to 48.

“Students will now have the room for a minor or double major, they could go to Europe, and if someone transfers in they can finish in two years,” Stang said.

Stang said the changes will especially help transfer students who want to finish the curriculum in two years.

Junior Charles Whitehead is a video production major who is not in favor of the curriculum changes.

“I can see wanting to free up more space for other things, but don’t skip on the ethics,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead said Ethics in the Media is integral for communication majors and has benefited him personally. He said students might start in one major in communications but find a job in another field, and taking broad classes could aid them in that transition.

Cultural diversity

Cultural Diversity teacher Bernie Hayes said his class’s subject matter is especially important to communication majors.

“If you are going to communicate, you need to know who you are commutating with,” Bernie Hayes said. “Especially with Webster worldwide. With all the campuses all around the nation, (Webster) should be one of the first to say cultural diversity is mandatory.”

Susan Stang said even though the classes have been taken out of the curriculum, she thinks students will still take Cultural Diversity and Ethics in the Media classes because of the positive feedback students have given about the courses.

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