Accreditation council responds to Medill decision


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Fisk Hall at 1845 Sheridan Rd., home of the Medill School of Journalism. A national journalism accreditation council responded to Medill Dean Brad Hamm’s comments regarding the school’s decision to not apply for accreditation this year.

Mariana Alfaro, Print Managing Editor

The accreditation council for journalism schools responded to Medill Dean Brad Hamm’s comments on the school’s decision to not reapply for accreditation in an email, saying some of Hamm’s comments made to The Daily and the Chicago Tribune contained some “factually incorrect and misleading statements.”

Last week, The Daily and the Tribune reported on the decision taken by leaders of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications to not reapply for accreditation under the Accreditation Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. The ACEJMC is the only accreditor for journalism schools in the country and has reviewed Medill continuously since 1987, Hamm told The Daily.

The decision to not renew Medill’s accreditation, Hamm told The Daily last week, came after school leaders expressed concern over ACEJMC’s review system, leadership and transparency. The process to get reaccredited, he said, takes an “enormous” amount of time that he said the school would rather use to focus on students.

In a statement signed by ACEJMC leaders — including council president Peter Bhatia and vice president Paul Parsons — the organization refuted Hamm’s claims on transparency by saying the ACEJMC’s process is “the most transparent accreditation in U.S. higher education.” The organization’s meetings, the statement said, are open to the public.

The statement also said the time the organization takes to review a program is necessary for a “thorough, fair and comprehensive review.”

“Our concern for the amount of time spent on the process is far greater for small, underfunded programs than for large, well-funded programs such as Northwestern’s and others of similar size,” the statement said.

By not being accredited, Medill loses the ability to enter the Hearst Journalism Awards, according to the ACEJMC statement. Hamm told The Daily that he “really likes” Hearst Awards but that they’re no longer the focus for Medill and its students. Ninety-five percent or more of the awards Medill students receive, he said, come from outside of Hearst.

Medill Prof. Roger Boye, who handles submissions for the Hearst Awards, said there are many other opportunities for Medill students to be awarded for their work outside of Hearst, including the College Television Awards given by the Emmys and the Associated Collegiate Press’ Pacemaker award.

“The most important thing to remember is there are scores and scores of competitions and scholarships out there; Hearst is just one of them and as far as I know, Hearst is the only one that requires accreditation through ACEJMC,” he said. “So there are many, many opportunities for Medill students.”

Hamm said ACEJMC’s public response to his comments in the two publications didn’t address the issues he and other journalism and communication school leaders have brought up.

The dean said he believes Medill has the ability to influence the journalism field “for the better,” which is why he hopes the school’s rejection of ACEJMC will bring change to the organization.

“When you listen to the stories over and over again for so many years of all the discouraged, disappointed, frustrated leaders of institutions that have experienced this program, those are stories that this leadership team heard also,” Hamm said. “I take those stories seriously and my decision was clearly based on what’s best for Medill.”

Hamm said the decision has been received with “enormous support” from Medill’s national advisory board, alumni and people at other universities. He said this shows a “greater need for reform.”

The decision, he said, has started a national conversation on accreditation. He said he remains hopeful that it will lead to significant reforms.

“It’s the first time someone has challenged ACEJMC and they’re not used to it but they have a mission to do the best they can for these schools,” he said. “I hope, as they think about the many concerns that others have, that they’ll take that role seriously or they’ll move on and let others do that job.”

An article published in the May 8, 2017, paper titled “Council responds to Medill’s departure” misstated Fisk Hall’s address in the caption. The address is 1845 Sheridan Rd. The Daily regrets the error.

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