By Haley Doss and Chris King, Opinion Editor and Editor-In-Chief —
As some of the eldest on staff at The Echo, we have composed an open letter to the Communications Department and University before our departure as graduating seniors. It is from a place of respect that we compose this message in hopes to build a better department for faculty, staff and students and to bring about some issues that with time and consideration can bring about positive change for the department as a whole. This department has been the center of growth for us over the last four years and it has been an honor to learn under some of the best and most passionate faculty on campus.
During our time as communications students, the professors of this department have acquired many different roles to us from professors and mentors to advisors and friends. With this, we have also seen them struggle with the workload placed upon them. As a degree in Communications grows in popularity, the number of students placed on our small staff are increased. This means growing class sizes, more papers to grade and less one-on-one time with students not to mention the fact that they are all subject to advise all of these students.
Simply put, students are outweighing the faculty and no one seems to care that this takes a toll on the professor’s time and energy to do their job they were first and foremost hired for, to teach. How can we allow them to do the work of a professor, researcher and advisor at the same pay as if they were just teaching? It kills their passion when they are stretched too thin and leads them to simply check off boxes rather than caring about the individual student or their research. This is not to say that they are not resilient, despite all of this, it is just to say that is not fair.
As a communication major, students often come into college not having a good idea of what they want to do because it is such a broad area of study. The Communication Department does a good job with introducing students to the world of communication with required classes such as Introduction to Communication, Media Writing I and Media Writing II. After these required courses, the department lacks in detailed classes in the fields of journalism, social media and advanced advertising, branding classes. While many students receive the base knowledge of several different areas of communication, there are not enough options to allow a graduate to leave with the proper specific skill set of their choosing.
When walking into Frist Hall, it is evident that it is an older building. A previous hospital built in 1950 and donated to UTC in 1985 has been the home of the Communication Department for some time. It was reported the year we started at UTC to be torn down but obviously that never happened. At this time, it houses our faculty and staff offices and classrooms which all seem outdated and falling apart. At the end of each hallway are closed doors and if you explore, one will find a dumping place of old desks, trash along with standing water in old restrooms and water fountains. To us, and many on our staff, the condition of our building really does show where the appreciation at our University lies. While we wait 15 minutes for our computers to start in the “State-of-the-Art” lab to warm up, other students are enjoying their newly renovated buildings and labs.
While we understand that projects must be done one building at a time, it is not lost on the students of the communication department as to why we are last on the priority list. All of this boils down to money. We lack the funding to hire new faculty members or get a new building. The general discourse in the United States today is that journalism or communications does not matter, that it is a dying major which is far from the truth. Communications, whether it be journalism, social media or public relations, is the center of most industries. If one can understand the world around them and communicate with the masses, it can be a very powerful tool.
As we leave this department next month, we do not exit without hope for future communication students. Unlike many who cannot wait to be done with their lives at UTC, we anticipate the day when we can give back our Alma mater in the future and see these wishes through.