Comm Majors Make Case to Specify Diplomas

As of this writing, just under 70 students, community members, and supporters have signed an online petition to add the words “Film, Television and Convergent Media” to diplomas.

While it is easy to write this off as an irrelevant particular, it is a large issue that affects a number of students here at SOU.  Under the current program, students can earn a Communication Degree with a concentration in Film, Television, and Convergent Media.  The students feel slightly spurned, as the majority of the work they do, the learning objectives, and curriculum are different, and they feel their diplomas should reflect that.

The effort is spearheaded by Max Miller, who is presently double majoring in Communication (with a Film, Tv, and Convergent Media) and EMDA (Emerging Media and Digital Arts). The Portland native currently serves as the Athletics Broadcast Director at SOU, meaning he directs the live broadcasts of football, volleyball, basketball, and soccer. Miller states that “I started a petition after hearing a lot of displeasure inside the film program that graduates receive diplomas that only read “Communication” on them.” He continues, “We are aware that our concentration in Film, Television and Convergent Media is displayed on our transcripts, but the principle of receiving a diploma that displays a discipline that is in the minority of the courses we take seems unacceptable.”

The petition, which can be found here, allows signees to cite reasons for their signatures, and many of them echo Miller’s words. One petitioner, Bill Rowe, wrote: “I’m a film professional and this is the only way to show future employers that a specific skill set has been studied. Very important to producers and investors.” It may become even more important in the future, especially now that Ashland has been voted the number one Best Place to Live and Work as a Moviemaker, according to the Moviemaker magazine.

Although the petition has noble intentions, both Miller and SOU faculty note that it is largely symbolic. The process to add these words to diplomas would involve many bureaucratic procedures. According to the Associate Provost of SOU, Jody Waters, programs here are governed by “institutional guidelines that are, themselves, submitted and approved through various entities and stages and are limited by the state board and Oregon Administrative rules governing how and what degrees are granted.” The University Registrar, Dr. Matt Stillman, reinforced this, and added that there was a “substantive” difference between a major and a concentration, and stated that diplomas reflect the degree, which would be a Bachelors (of art or science) in Communication, and that it is rare for “a potential employer, graduate program, etc. to ask for anything other than transcripts.”

SOU’s Communication Department is, however, currently “moving forward with some curricular changes that will reflect greater specificity in the concentrations,” according to Jody Waters. The school is not deaf to the needs of the students, and is actively striving to create the best academic programs possible with their limited staff and resources.

The petition may not directly cause the change, but it is still an important way to quantify how many people are affected in the program. The petition is still receiving signatures, and although Miller sounded deflated, he remains hopeful. He clarified that he is not ungrateful, and wrote that “we receive a valuable education here, and this petition was about being accurately recognized for our achievements, not villainizing the university or its faculty.”

So stay tuned, Comm majors, to see what changes are coming your way.