By Elizabeth Scalzo and Jen Malti
Editor-in-Chief and Assistant Sports Editor
Fairleigh Dickinson University is working through a broad restructuring that was announced in 2018. That ongoing change, the pause in freshman admission for the Metropolitan Campus communication program, announced in February, and the challenges of COVID-19 have tested not only students in the communication program, but also faculty and administrators.
Currently, the Metro campus serves about 40 students in the communication curriculum with two full-time communication professors, Tina Loponte and Dr. Zhenbin Sun, after losing two others. The program has six adjunct professors, according to the WebAdvisor Portal.
The Florham campus has six full-time communication professors and 11 adjuncts, according to the WebAdvisor Portal. There were 98 students enrolled in 2020, according to the FDU Fact Book numbers provided to The Equinox.
Faculty at the Florham campus are teaching Zoom classes, giving Metro students additional options within the program.
Sources tell The Equinox this week that there isn’t a plan for ending the communication program.
The frustration of students and communication barriers are complicated with full-time faculty leaving and the pandemic hitting.
Faculty on the Florham campus and the Metro campus will tell you they are challenged but fully embraced in their mission of education and helping students find a path. They collaborate to advise students and get them slotted into classes even with the difficulties in communication the pandemic has brought.
They work without the advantages of face-to-face communication or being able to immerse in the culture of a campus they are not on –with a 30 mile distance barrier and for COVID-19 reasons, they cannot easily visit.
Having two full-time professors leave the university was unexpected, Provost Dr. Gillian Small told The Equinox. Small discussed the university’s vision on the process of revamping the department.
“We hope to find more full-time professors that are experts in these fields that we have,” she said. “Once we have acquired these full-time faculty members, they will be charged with the responsibility of guiding us into redeveloping the department.”
The Equinox will follow up with an in-depth interview with department administrators in the near future.
One of the issues that Metro students have told The Equinox is that, with a tight course catalog, they have struggled to find courses and stay on track for a timely graduation. Others are concerned with the future of their major.
But, communication students aren’t the only ones concerned about the pausing of frosh admission into the program and the number of class offerings in communication available to Metro students.
A Metro STEM graduate says her communications classes and on-campus experience has given her an advantage in the job market.
Sonal Tulsyani, a former staff writer for The Equinox, said via email, “I was told that one of the things that sets me apart in my resume is my marketing and journalism experience because, according to an industry professional, many students in my major struggle with communication skills, which makes it harder to succeed at a job in biology.”
“If universities are so hell-bent on cutting communications programs to preserve their STEM programs, why are they removing opportunities for non-communication majors to develop professional skills that are essential to their careers?” she said.
Tulsyani, who graduated from Ridgewood High School, is continuing her education at Montclair State for graduate study in statistics. She works as a lab aide at Bioreference Labs.
As we have reported, changes are underway. What new steps can be taken?
Be sure to check out our next story in this series when we look at solutions on how to #savecomm.
Art by Elizabeth Scalzo.
A closer look into the vision for the FDU Metro communication department.