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."