Ranney addresses media studies rumors

Arthur Ranney

Let’s get a couple of things straight: Media Studies is not going away. Students in Media Studies will be able to finish their majors. Media Studies will continue to accept new students into the major, and anyone who declares the major will have the opportunity to finish it.
We are undergoing a transformation brought on by a confluence of events that require – and will continue to require – radical transformations throughout the University of Wisconsin System, not just at UW-Platteville, and not just in one department. We happen to be one of the more visible manifestations of something that has been happening for several years as the state of Wisconsin disinvests in higher education.
Consider the implications of the Media Studies transformation from seven full-time instructional personnel to four, and a likely move into the School of Business. We serve nearly 200 majors and minors and offer three General Education courses that range from the introductory level to advanced, theoretical perspectives. We also offer a service course that is used by students in a number of other majors. Of necessity, we will be reducing our course offerings, and those reductions could have an impact on several hundred students at the university.
And that doesn’t even begin to count the impact made by WSUP, Pioneer TV and the Exponent – student media that are housed in our department and that offer forums for the exchange of ideas and information that do not come through the public relations filter of the university.
What put a perfectly viable department in the crosshairs?
Money. And timing.
Media Studies began the Fall Semester with seven full-time instructional personnel and one instructor at a 60 percent load, plus a full-time program assistant. Our dear friend and colleague Dan Banda died, which put us at six full-time instructors. My long-time colleague, B.J. Reed, is retiring. I am retiring. We filed paperwork last fall to begin a search for two tenure-line faculty, then were told to scale back to one, and finally were told to forget it. None of the three instructors will be replaced, and one of them is the chair of the department.
Our program assistant, Becky Troy, is likely to retire this year as well, and there are no plans to replace her, either.
Reed and I announced our retirement plans last semester, and soon, the word came down from the administration that the College of BILSA needed to cut about $336,000 from its budget, a figure that was later increased to over $400,000. Then Gov. Scott Walker dropped his $300 million bombshell on Feb. 3.
Cost reductions have to come from somewhere, and in a labor-intensive enterprise where salaries comprise more than 80 percent of overhead, you can only cut so far before you start hitting bone. I don’t think our dean, Wayne Weber, had a choice: He took our gift (a tragic and unwitting one, to be sure) of salary savings, but he also fought hard to keep the department viable. The workload of administrative and clerical personnel in the School of Business will increase and Media Studies will have to make some hard choices about curriculum, but we will persevere.
My inclination – and I think the department shares it – is to come out swinging. There will be changes, no doubt, but with every change comes an opportunity.
I see a field of opportunities.