Administration told students to either change their major, transfer or take online classes. Students fought against the decision.
Webster University Thailand (WUT) decided to phase out its media communications program in February. Vice Provost Nancy Hellerud explained in a memo sent to media communications students on Feb. 25 the school decided to discontinue the program at WUT due to declining demand in Thailand for a media communications program.
The change in program offerings was originally communicated to media communications majors through email according to senior media communications major Pinya Kaenratana. It was originally explained as a suspension of the media communications program altogether rather than a gradual phase out.
Thailand administration presented media communications majors with three options originally. First, they could transfer to Leiden to continue their media communications degree. Second, they could take all online courses to finish their degree. Third, they were told they could change their major.
Fourteen media communications students did not find these options pragmatic according to an email sent to administrators from the media student club on Feb. 23 after two meetings with administration.
“A university should build a healthy environment for student’s learning process in such a way that they feel connected and supported by the university, trusting them to lead them to success,” the email read. “However, we, 14 students who are currently studying in Webster University Thailand Cha–Am Campus, are being coerced by three administrators. We are stressed, depressed, lost, confused and under pressure.”
Students expressed in the email that all three options were not ideal for students. Fourteen media students did not feel Leiden offered a viable option due to higher tuition and the distance from Thailand.
Kaenratana said she did not like the idea of only having online courses available to finish her degree. She said she did not attend WUT to only take online courses.
“I have to take an online course and my mother does not want me to study online because it requires a computer and videos” Kaenratana said. “When I need to ask questions, I cannot get the answer in time. I have to wait for the professor to log in to get answers.”
Media students also expressed that certain subjects require hands-on experience and individual attention from professors. They requested and received a third meeting with administrators to discuss alternative options to the original three proposed.
After the meeting, the administrators sent a memo to media students presenting new options under the “teach out” plan.
The new options include a hybrid model, combining online courses and some on-ground courses led by local faculty for students to complete their media communications degrees. Each student will meet individually with a team at WUT to discuss a schedule, timeline and combination of courses to complete their degree. Students can also transfer to St. Louis or Leiden campuses.
The memo stated each student needs an individual degree completion plan. They can complete the program because every student’s situation is different in terms of class standing, courses completed and remaining and personal factors.
Media communications minor and junior Jigme Zangmo Rinzin said she wants to keep her minor but felt stressed by the university’s decision to only inform majors about the program change in the first place.
“The suspension was very random, out of the blue,” Rinzin said. “It made us all stressed out in the middle of the semester. Many [media students] lost interest in the classes they were taking.”
According to Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin, after current majors and minors graduate from WUT, the university will no longer offer a BA in Media Communications. Communications courses could still be offered.