The School of Journalism will be losing its present equipment room space in Melville Library come Jan. 1, 2018. While the search for a new room is underway, the SOJ’s Founding Dean Howard Schneider says the loss of this space nevertheless comes as a blow to journalism students, faculty and staff alike.
“We’re not happy about this decision,” Schneider said. “And we argued against it – but the Provost Michael Bernstein, ultimately, who is the chief academic officer, makes the decision… We opposed it, we felt strongly this was a mistake and we made our case to the provost.”
Perhaps to the SOJ’s dismay, and despite its stern objections, the final decision to grant a proposal set forth by the Division of Information Technology (DoIt) and Dean of Libraries Constantia Constantinou – which would turn the equipment room into a faculty development center – was made.
“The people who are involved feel that that space is very centralized and prominent, and that it would be the best possible place. They had no other place like it,” Schneider said. “We have four or five months now to work out an alternative, and that will be a big issue for me. Can we find other space? And in the process, can we find space, not only for the equipment room, but to keep the sense of community alive?”
The space, which for years has been home to a variety of cameras, tripods, audio recorders, microphones, lighting kits, reflectors and batteries, has grown to house much more than reporters’ equipment.
“The equipment room is basically a part of the newsroom,” Dorothy Mai, a junior journalism major and member of the SOJ Student Advisory Board, said. “I just thought it was really convenient. It’s where I met so many of my journalism friends.”
In this room, too, students are taught to utilize the equipment they are expected to master for the purpose of their majors and careers.
“This is a space that provides direct classroom instructional support, directly for the student,” Phil Altiere, technology manager for the School of Journalism, said. “…I mean, these are the tools you need in order to complete classwork, this is what you need to graduate, it’s what you need to develop in your major and to get jobs later on – a mastery of this equipment and how you use it to tell stories.”
But despite all of this, the space has not always belonged to the School of Journalism.
“When the School of Journalism was established in 2006, we were given half of that space, so originally that was an interlibrary loan space,” Schneider said.
The SOJ was given the half of the space that currently houses the equipment, while the half that currently features seating was interlibrary loan space.
“So, we never technically owned that half,” Schneider said. “The library came back and said, ‘Well, what about that half? It’s not really yours. It’s ours.’ What’s more than a little discouraging, is in this final decision, not only did we lose that space, but we lost the half of space that we had to start with.”
SOJ Student Advisory Board member and journalism major Aleeza Kazmi said the board plans on hosting an open forum in the coming weeks where students can express their concerns about the loss of the room.
“We plan on taking what they say and bringing it to a meeting with the provost, who was in charge of the decision to close the room,” she said. “At this point, what we have been told from the administration is that the chances are close to none that we will be able to change the provost’s mind about taking the equipment room away from us, so we want to focus on what the replacement space will be, ensuring it will be near or equivalent to the current space.”
There are multiple reasons the space is considered fit for a faculty development center, said Dr. Marvin H. O’Neal, who serves as the university’s director of introductory biology laboratories and the faculty director of the Undergraduate College of Science and Society.
“This is space that I think, is necessary – a place where faculty and students and DoIt and TLT can come together and help solve some problems that have been troubling the Stony Brook teaching faculty,” he said. “We used to have space over in the Faculty Center, and there, we lost the ability to have any sort of privacy, you know, we couldn’t have conversations with DoIt or TLT without other people listening in.”
While O’Neal says he is sympathetic of the plight of the journalism department, he is excited for what the development space will bring. He also points to the space’s central location in the library.
“I think whenever you talk about space, you’re going to get two very strong sides because space is an extremely widely sought after commodity at a university,” O’Neal said. “All space decisions are difficult ones and there’s always someone who benefits and someone who loses a little bit.”
The space may thus allow for greater collaboration across disciplines, as it it set to be open to faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral students and possibly even undergraduate teaching assistants of all departments, Patricia Aceves, assistant provost for Academic Assessment and Technology-Enhanced Pedagogy said.
“The idea is that it would be essentially a one-stop-shop for faculty to get support, so it’s a collaboration between DoIt and the library, and it will be a place for faculty to come in, meet with librarians, talk about research needs for their classes, meet with instructional technologists to talk about integrating more technology into their classes, or with their instructional designers to improve the student learning experience,” she said.
Moreover, she says, a center like this would allow postdoctoral students to gain the experience they need in terms of teaching.
“At the end of the day, this will benefit students,” Dr. O’Neal said. “It is not space being allocated for an individual teaching faculty or an individual research lab. It’s not going to be used for storage. This is going to be active, functioning space to try to improve the teaching at Stony Brook. And that’s great for the students because the teaching is and should continue to be the top priority at Stony Brook.”
Altiere agreed with this sentiment, in saying that minimizing the impact on journalism students during the spring shift is most important. He looks positively toward the prospect of a new space.
“If it has similar criteria to the room we have now, then that works,” he said. “Maybe it will be a better space than what we currently have.”