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RTVF majors consider proposals to change controversial grant program

Communication+senior+Dasha+Gorin+proposes+changes+to+the+controversial+Media+Arts+Grant+system.+The+co-president+of+URSA+said+she+hopes+faculty+members+will+join+students+in+supporting+reform.
Communication senior Dasha Gorin proposes changes to the controversial Media Arts Grant system. The co-president of URSA said she hopes faculty members will join students in supporting reform.

Communication senior Dasha Gorin proposes changes to the controversial Media Arts Grant system. The co-president of URSA said she hopes faculty members will join students in supporting reform.

Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Communication senior Dasha Gorin proposes changes to the controversial Media Arts Grant system. The co-president of URSA said she hopes faculty members will join students in supporting reform.

Alan Perez, Assistant Campus Editor

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Radio, Television and Film majors expressed overwhelming frustration at a town hall Thursday regarding the perceived lack of support and funding from the program’s faculty, and they discussed proposals to change a highly-contested grant program for extracurricular projects.

The Undergraduate RTVF Students Association hosted about a dozen students in a forum at Norris University Center to voice complaints and brainstorm ideas to address them. Topics included faculty support, the program’s size and equipment access, but the meeting’s main focus was the controversial Media Arts Grant program.

URSA presented a reform proposal to the MAG system, which uses a funding formula for student films shot outside of classes. The system has raised tensions between students and RTVF administrators since it was implemented in 2016.

Dasha Gorin, co-president of URSA, said she hopes faculty members will join students in supporting reform.

“It’s very important that this gets widespread support,” the Communication senior said. “We don’t want it to be just student groups.”

The new grant system replaced an old procedure that yielded unchecked fiscal control to student groups. Grants for extracurricular films are now allocated by a MAG committee of students and faculty, whose members are not publicly disclosed.

Students mobilized against the change, arguing the decision to move to MAGs was made without their consultation and effectively diminished student influence in the funding process.

No administrators or faculty attended the town hall. In an email to The Daily last year, Department chair and RTVF Prof. Dave Tolchinsky said students were largely content with the MAG system.  

But Gorin said that complaint isn’t the primary reason students object to the MAG system. Though the initial criticism was that students’ power was taken away, deeper issues with the program exist, such as the large number of delayed projects.

Additionally, the committee members meet only once a year and tend to forget suggestions URSA makes, she said.

The proposal Gorin and co-president Jack Schimmel, a Communication junior, put forth included suggestions that the committee only include students if they have production experience, grant funding to mainly RTVF majors and increase its diversity efforts.

Communication sophomore Jesse Zhou said though he was hopeful RTVF administrators would consider the proposal, he was skeptical they would adopt any changes.

“It just seems right now (RTVF administrators) don’t want to put any effort in,” he said.

Zhou added that RTVF faculty were unaware of department rules, and a lack of accountability allowed students to abandon scripts for which they received funding.

Students’ chief complaint was the overall lack of support from faculty members. Their voices aren’t being heard, and administrators in the School of Communication don’t seem to care, they said.

Students in attendance also expressed a desire for better relationships with professors, suggesting the department set up more opportunities to interact with faculty. Furthermore, students criticized the lack of accessibility to production equipment and the large number of graduate students in undergraduate courses.

But as audience members brainstormed plans to get RTVF administrators to act, Communication senior Solveig Herzum cautioned against branding the entire department as unsupportive.

“It weakens our point to make it all overarching,” Herzum said. “I am more on the side of a really well-written and kind, but firm, thing.”

Email: aperez@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @_perezalan_

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