UPDATE: Journalism faculty debates, but affirms requirement of iPod touches

Saturday, May 9, 2009 | 3:11 p.m. CDT; updated 3:27 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 11, 2009

COLUMBIA — With a decision effectively made and incoming freshmen already informed, MU's journalism faculty on Friday affirmed the decision to require incoming freshmen to have an iPod touch or an iPhone, after a heated debate.

Earlier this week it was reported that incoming freshmen would have to have the music player or an iPhone. Letters went out to those students months ago about the requirement, but the faculty had never voted on the change, a mistake associate Dean  Brian Brooks takes full blame for.

The technical committee had voted on the equipment much earlier, and Brooks thought the faculty likewise had voted on it. But it hadn't — a lapse that upset some of the professors.

While technically the equipment is required, the requirement won't be enforced, Brooks said. The "requirement" label is added so the equipment qualifies for students on financial need, he said.

Janet Saidi, news director at KBIA and assistant professor with the School of Journalism, voted against the requirement in a re-vote, having voted for it initially. Saidi said it was a difficult decision but, in the current economic climate, she could not vote "yes."

Brooks pointed out that if the students buy their computers at Tiger Tech the iPod touches are free. He noted that last year 80 percent of freshmen bought their computers at Tiger Tech.

He also noted that 50 other universities in the U.S. require this equipment.

Saidi said there could be a problem with how the requirement would be perceived and did not feel there was a clear plan to explain the requirement to students.

"Journalism students are going to question and complain and keep questioning until they get good answers," Saidi said. “We need to be able to provide clear, convincing answers."

Saidi said that there remains the potential to better articulate the school’s rationale for the new requirement, and that that can still happen, "in which case, my concerns will be invalidated."

Associate professor Clyde Bentley also voted against the decision; Bentley, a self-proclaimed "platform agnostic," said his primary concern was that the requirement denoted a specific brand.

Bentley said students will encounter a variety of technologies during their professional lives and he favors policies that encourage students to work various technologies.

Journalism professor Jacqui Banaszynski voted for the university’s decision, saying the faculty was told the university was not requiring that students purchase iPod Touches and iPhones but, effectively, highly recommending they be bought.

"It is perfectly appropriate to require journalists to have the modern tools," Banaszynski said.

Still, Banaszynski said, her support came with two asterisks: that the school not base its requirement on a single brand and that the faculty be provided the tools and training to incorporate them into their classrooms in order to make students’ purchase of these devices worthwhile.

Saidi said that, on the whole, the vigorous discussion in the meeting was a good thing.

"The technology committee is trying to keep us on the cutting edge," Saidi said. "That is a very difficult task."




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Ro Sila May 9, 2009 | 11:14 a.m.

I'm not fond of the specificity of the requirement either. But first, note that this is a suggestion, not a requirement. So, if you already own a piece of equipment, you don't need to purchase new. If you're considering a new purchase, you will be better off trying to get in step.
But "WHY?," I hear you wail. Because instructors will spend more time on trying to get everyone on the same step (no, no, press F1+ not ctr+ on <that PDA>) than on teaching the lesson. For a simple university example, consider a literature class that often requires referencing the text in class. The suggested textbook contains the text on pages 47 and 52, but half the class uses a multitude of other editions. The teacher spends half the class time waiting for the nonconforming members to find the references OR just muddles on with those nonconforming members never actually looking at the correct text. In short, class time is spent on other than learning the lesson for that day (waiting) and/or the nonconforming students can't follow the text.
And yes, students will need to learn various technologies in their professional lives. But each will learn the one technology that an employer requires. These are not technology students; they need to learn how to be good journalists -- not which specific buttons to push on what specific PDA.
Has the university at least tried to get a purchasing discount for specifying specific hardware?

(Report Comment)
Katie Walley May 9, 2009 | 11:37 a.m.

@ Ro Sila:

I agree with you. It can be quite difficult bringing a class to the same page when everyone is using something different, whether it be a lit book or technological gadget. Journalists have to be techno-savvy to survive in this industry, however. There are no longer "just reporters" or "just copy editors" — think platform agnostic. Programs such as InDesign, Flash, FinalCut, Photoshop, Twitter, html coding, xhtml coding, cascading style sheets, etc. We use them all and have to be able to understand them. Newsrooms use different systems, but those programs can be found in the vast majority. A week from today I will graduate from this university as a journalist: reporter, designer and copy editor. I can work in both the Web and print. It's those technological skills that got me my future internship. What journalism is and what it can be evolves with technology; it's essential to our education. It doesn't have to be Mac driven, however.

— Katie Walley
Assistant news editor
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 9, 2009 | 3:44 p.m.

("...incoming freshmen would have to have (Apple's) music player or (Apple's) iPhone...")
How inferior teaching at the School of Journalism must have been before the introduction of this specific brand of electronic device became a required purchase by students.
This sounds to me like some Macintosh salesman "bought" an MU administrator.
Just seems wrong to me.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich May 9, 2009 | 3:55 p.m.

It seems like this decision is made and not much can be done about it. Either way, J-School teaching faculty who read this....I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend you read up on who controls the rights to what you lecture, since all this content will (apparently) be online to access easily. From another site:

"Two years ago, I taught an online screenwriting course. What I did not know was that the university was saving all of my lectures and my communications with my students. Between my lectures and my professor to student chats, I had practically written a book.

So, after the semester was over, the university dropped me, but kept the material and used it."

(Report Comment)
Jenny Rogers May 9, 2009 | 9:15 p.m.

I still feel like I don't understand what the ipods are going to be used for.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 9, 2009 | 10:03 p.m.

@Jenny Rogers:
They are going to be used to increase the value of Apple stock...

(Report Comment)
Matt Witthaus May 11, 2009 | 6:11 p.m.

FYI: The article on Apple's stock was from 2007.

Over the past several years, Apple has had a "Back-to-school promo" where they give a free iPod to college students buying a new apple computer. In 2008, the promo included a rebate of up to $299, fully covering the price of an iPod touch. The Journalism school has required freshmen students to buy a laptop since 2005. Ninety-nine percent of the students buy an Apple laptop, so the iPod touch will be free. The promotion usually goes from around June 1st through September 15th. I don't think Apple's stock will rise or college students will go broke over a decision that requires students to get a free iPod Touch.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich May 11, 2009 | 6:55 p.m.

If students get a free iPod touch every summer for buying an Apple laptop, then why do they need to make it a "requirement" to scam the financial aid system?

(Report Comment)

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