A Defense of JBU’s Communication Department

As a prominent broadcaster and evangelist, John E. Brown Sr. founded our institution in 1919 on the belief that communication matters. 

Within the first month of its opening, students at John Brown University, formerly called Southwestern Collegiate Institute, published its first school newspaper, The Southwestern. By December of that year, JBU started offering courses in printing and journalism. This was only the beginning of a long-lasting journey that the communication department has trekked, obstacles and all, to where we stand now.  

Throughout its establishment, the communication department has proven to be a space for curiosity-driven individuals who desire to carry out the founder’s purpose through the various disciplines within the major. This enthusiasm for knowledge does not stay inside the classroom, and it has propelled us students to practice our skills at JBU and beyond. That is, until our presence on campus was jeopardized.

On March 1, communication students were told that JBU is completely cutting the Communication department in May 2022. This puts our future and work as student journalists on the chopping block. However, this does not come off as a surprise to any of us. For the past few years, we have lived in fear that a day would come in which we would not have a department anymore.

From not having a new department head to potentially losing control of the TV Studio last semester, the lack of support from the administration has left us to depend on ourselves and ourselves only. From admissions representatives skipping our area during campus tours to being left in the dark about this decision, we became tired of feeling like we were to be shut down in any minute. Turns out we were right. 

Our department stands because it is composed of passion, creativity and perseverance. Although we are a smaller major, those who decided to study communication feel God’s calling to spread a message of hope. It is out of this passion and love for our major that we urge the administration to reconsider this decision and the serious ramifications it has for our campus.

Our involvement on campus is evident, with organizations and clubs led by communication students including The Threefold Advocate, operating since 1937; The Nesher, JBU’s yearbook since 1926; and Golden Eagle Productions, JBU’s broadcasting and media production club since 2008. Communication students’ contribution to JBU is undoubtedly worthy of highlighting, and this is all thanks to a department that backs our work up. 

While we fervently pursue truth and justice through our initiatives, communication faculty and staff have guided us through the process. Despite us being an underfunded department, the support from our professors and from each other feels enormous. We cannot see ourselves carrying out this work without a space that exists to provide leadership and support.

We must stop to think, how is this decision going to affect JBU as an institution? Even as a smaller department, we have been as or more successful in terms of retention and graduation than more populated majors like marketing and English. If the numbers are not the issue, what is the real reason to get rid of a department that has continuously advocated for free speech, fairness and accountability?

In the meeting, we were told that classes like news writing and reporting will be adopted by other departments and taught by newly-hired adjuncts. Students were encouraged to switch majors – like the new integrated marketing communications in the business department or digital cinema for those who major in media productions. If we already have qualified faculty and the required courses, why not keep the department?

While we understand the unlikeliness of changing the fate of the department, and while we are not surprised at the administration’s actions, we will not let their conscience be at peace with the repercussions for our campus. By not communicating their decision to us appropriately, they have broken our trust that we are a priority to the administration.

A 30-minute meeting to inform us that our futures are at risk will not silence the indignation we feel due to this decision made that directly impacts us. We will not quietly watch the department that has tangibly supported us be reduced to ashes.

Signed by communication students