Journalism and public relations majors often contradict each other- except in Journalism 341, editing for publication, where they learn editing techniques side by side.
Journalism 341 is a required class for public relations majors and an optional, although arguably imperative, skills class for journalism majors. In both current sections of the class, PR majors vastly outnumber journalism majors by five to one. A class that is supposed to max out at 18 students is over capacity by six. Students outnumber classroom resources, and are asked to use their personal computers for in-class work. Some students don’t even fit within the horseshoe-shaped desk setup in the classroom.
“We should all be able to have access to the same resources,” McCall Kelley, a senior public relations major, said. “But, because we’re overbooked, there aren’t enough computers or even desks.”
Several journalism students who wanted to take the class were shut out because of the high demand. PR majors who need the class to graduate in the spring stress out about getting a spot, which shouldn’t be the case, Kelley argued.
“It’s just frustrating because you shouldn’t have this much trouble or concern for classes that you need to graduate,” Kelley said. She also said that because the class is so full, it’s an “overwhelming” learning environment.
This issue does not just affect public relations majors, but journalism majors as well. Emily Engott, a junior journalism major, said it is easy to become disengaged in a class that is over capacitated.
“I feel like in previous journalism classes, one of the benefits is that you get personal attention from the professor,” Engott said. “You get feedback from reading out loud to classmates and that’s hard to do when there is so many other kids.”
The public relations major has grown substantially in the past few years, according to Kevin McClure, Ph. D., chair of communication studies. In 2010, there were 134 students in the major and now there are 257 students. The growing major can account for the demand of the required class.
“We think we put together a really good program, delivering it is the hard part,” McClure said. “It’s grown so fast and there’s a lot of strain on particular courses and being able to deliver the curriculum to the students. That’s the hardest thing because it’s grown so fast.”
“We could say we could open up three sections, depending on what demands going to be next year,” McClure said. “We could have two of them tasked for the PR program and set it up on e-campus so that it would be for the PR students and you could have the other one for the journalism students. But we need staff to teach these things, human resources is the issue, especially when something grows really fast.” He also said how these are the types of problems they would prefer to have- a growing discipline versus one that doesn’t get enough students.
“It’s not just with this class,” John Pantalone, chair of the journalism department, said. “There’s issues like this all over the campus.”
Kelley said she hopes this problem isn’t ignored. She feels like the university should open more sections of the class, or offer the class earlier in the major instead of just juniors and seniors. Engott offered the same sentiments, hoping the two majors can collaborate better in the future because “it is a major distraction for our kids to be in a class that over capacitated.”
“I’ve talked to Kevin and examining the PR major and maybe making some adjustments to it is on the agenda of the Harrington School,” Pantalone said. “In the long run, if more and more students major in that discipline, resources have to be provided to deliver classes that they need.”