The journalism program at Cambrian College was among nine programs cut Thursday night, as the board of governors approved a recommendation to suspend them. 

On Thursday night, Cambrian College’s board of governors voted to accept a recommendation that will effectively shut down nine programs at the school – including journalism. In fact, the school of Media Studies at the Sudbury college was eliminated completely.

The decision coming out of the standing-room-only meeting has upset some, according to CBC, due to the way in which it was handled. The CBC story suggests there was a “lack of consultation” in the program cuts that the coordinator of one of the cut programs called “disappointing.”

According to a release, various factors, including enrolment levels, costs, and the need to reinvest in other areas experiencing increased demand led to the suspension of the affected programs.

Sylvia Barnard, president of Cambrian College, said that the journalism program was suspended because of all of these reasons, and then some. "We are suspending the program because of the decline in enrolment and the challenge that graduates are facing in finding employment," Barnard said in an email.* "Also, the revenue from the program does not cover the costs of delivery and overhead for the program any longer."

Barnard says that enrolment has "dropped steadily" recently, with only about 20 new students entering the program each year. On top of that, the retention rate from first to second year is only about 50 per cent, she said. 

Originally, 11 programs were up to be cut, but two public relations programs were saved and will be moving to the School of Business, according to Cambrian’s press release.

Mike Bleskie, a first-year student of one of these public relations programs wrote a letter to the Sudbury Star, published on Mar. 23 in response to commenters on a previous story that Bleskie says suggested “students have absolutely no right intercepting the affairs of a business such as Cambrian College.” Bleskie disagrees:

We are setting out to maintain the voice of key partners of the Cambrian educational experience. We are a group of students, and students alone, who are shocked that, according to some, our programs do not fit into the mosaic of applied post-secondary education.

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He continues, citing a strong media presence in Sudbury and a high level of community engagement and involvement from journalism and PR students as reasons the programs should be saved. In the end, though, the journalism program was cut.

Students who are currently enrolled in the program will be able to complete their diploma without any changes, the college says. The suspension will only affect students who were expecting to begin in 2012-2013.

Cambrian’s journalism program is a two-year diploma program in which students take courses in traditional areas – reporting, print, broadcast, news writing and production and law. Aside from a class that students take in their first semester titled “Introduction to Video” – in which students learn basics of videography for television and online – there are no compulsory classes to teach students entrepreneurial skills or those required for new media. There is, however, a six-week internship placement in their final semester.

In her email to J-Source, however, Barnard said that the school had, in recent years, updated its curriculum "to reflect the new standards and new media." Despite this, Cambrian still had trouble attracting students. 

OpenFile Toronto took a look at the state of journalism schools in Canada and their role in the evolving media landscape back in February. The story ran with the headline: Are journalism schools doing their students a disservice?

The story looked at the fact that job prospects are fairly grim for graduating students, though as Joe Banks of Algonquin College noted, anyone willing to move to a small town, get a driver’s licence and work for a newspaper for low pay will be able to find work. That said, of community colleges in Ontario – who survey their former students six months after graduation – journalism students are not only less likely to be employed, but less likely to be employed in their chosen field than college averages. Ontario universities are not required to release employment statistics. As the OpenFile story notes, 23 of the 43 journalism schools in Canada exist in Ontario. 

 

*UPDATED 4 p.m. Mar. 23 to include Sylvia Barnard's comments on the suspension of the school.