Mass Communication Program Fading


Once with two full-time tenured faculty and one adjunct instructor from 2011-2013, Adam State University’s Mass Communication program is now being reduced to a single full-time faculty with a small course load taught by other English professors. The fall of 2016 will feature the fewest number of courses offered in Mass Communication since 2011.

After teaching during the 2015–2016 academic year, ASU Mass Comm faculty Paul Echeverria is leaving the institution. Sources indicate that Echeverria will be teaching elsewhere and that his partner’s inability to secure a full-time position at Adams State may be among the reasons for his departure. For more on the proposed dual-career policy that ASU administration dismissed in the spring of 2015, see The Killing of CAG.

The fall 2016 schedule of Mass Comm coursework shows that the only remaining Mass Communication faculty member, Dr. Beth Bonnstetter, will now be teaching all the digital video production courses taught by Echeverria. Dr. Bonnstetter has no degree in digital media production and has previously taught in communication history, analysis, radio practicum, and media writing.

The digital video courses were previously developed by former faculty member Danny Ledonne, during which time Dr. Mark Finney also taught research methods in Mass Communication. Dr. Finney left in 2013 to teach at Emory and Henry college in Virginia. Having developed the video production coursework from 2011 to 2015, Ledonne twice applied for a full-time faculty position in 2014 and 2015 but was never hired. Ledonne was subsequently banned from campus in October 2015. There is now ongoing litigation on the matter filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

This downsizing of course offerings follows a broader trend across the ASU of declining student enrollment and diminished faculty and staff support – including “slushy hiring freezes” and programs whittled down to a single faculty member through a combination of attrition and budget cuts, followed by a consolidation of employment duties.

As a result, many students are left wondering about the quality of their academic programs, including Mass Communication. One Mass Comm major at ASU reacted to this news:

As a student who is majoring in Communications and wants to specialize in video production, I feel that I need a professor that has a lot of experience in the field. I want to learn from a professor who can teach me camera and software techniques and how to improve my films. Having a professor with no credentials in the video production industry will not benefit my learning/college experience, will not help me improve as a video production student, and will not help me be prepared for the real video production industry. Students who want to do video production need the support of a professor who has been in the video industry, who can teach us from there experiences, and give us their knowledge to help us be successful in the video production industry once we graduate.  – ASU Mass Comm major

Similarly, an ASU employee observed: “We are in the 21st century. We need a cutting edge film program. In fact, in my mind, no university can remain competitive without exposing students, across disciplines, to editing skills in both the realm of film and web pages. All of this is extremely sad. ASU has so much potential to do great things but around every corner, there is a barrier to progress. It’s all quite disheartening.”

A former faculty member familiar with the Mass Communication program said, “Wow, I’m not sure what to make of this. It is definitely a bummer, though. When I think of what Western State has accomplished in this area, I can only shake my head.”