Letter to the Editor: Can NU fix Fisk Hall?

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As a Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications alum, I applaud interim dean Charles Whitaker’s goal to make the school’s curriculum meet the needs of today’s changing media landscape. But how can students learn 21st century journalism skills in a 19th century building that predates Chicago journalism’s “Front Page era” by decades? Fisk Hall, built in 1899, became Medill’s home in 1954, 33 years after the school opened. The neighboring McCormick Foundation Center has housed Medill’s modern broadcast and multimedia facilities since it opened in 2002. But Fisk remains frozen in time compared to Medill’s state-of-the-art campuses in Chicago, San Francisco and Doha, Qatar.

NU Facilities Management’s 2004 “Southeast Campus Plan” called for the demolition of Locy Hall (which opened in 1928) by the end of 2009. No mention was made of Fisk. But the University fully renovated then-63-year-old Kresge Hall in 2016. Why does NU ignore Fisk while spending over $500 million on new structures like the Kellogg Global Hub, the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, the Segal Visitors Center and the Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center. If NU can spend $270 million on a lavish new facility for student-athletes, how about allocating funds to update a building for student journalists. Is that asking too much?

Perhaps NU alums will spur some action. The University of North Carolina received a $10 million grant to build a state of the art facility for its School of Media and Journalism. It was donated by UNC alum Don Curtis, CEO of Curtis Media Group, which owns 62 radio stations across that state. Why can’t Wildcat alums match the Tar Heels’ generosity?

Former Medill dean Brad Hamm sought funding for a renovation of Fisk before stepping down. I hope Whitaker succeeds in fulfilling that initiative to prevent this aging relic from becoming Fisk Hell. A world class J-school needs a world class home.

— Dick Reif, MSJ ’64