July 17, 2018 | ° F

BOG approves proposed name change of SCILS

The Board of Governors approved changing the name of the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies to the School of Communication and Information, despite some dissention from the audience yesterday at the board's meeting in Winants Hall on the College Avenue campus.

The Rev. William Howard, BOG chair, said he thinks the board voted to approve the decision because they did not see a compelling reason to delay it.

"I thought the dean made a good case and gave us reassurance that the distinguished career at Rutgers in the field of library studies would not be diminished by this action," Howard said.

He said the quality of the exchange of the arguments presented during the debate was excellent.

"Whenever we make a decision of this sort with informed, vigorous opinion on both sides we make a judgment, and as mortal human beings we have to wait and see whether the judgment call has proven the wise one," Howard said.

SCILS Dean Jorge Reina Schement gave a presentation to the board before the decision on why the name change is appropriate.

"We now recognize that success in the 21st century will depend on convergence of communication, information, technology and systems. Our goal is to lead the way," Schement said. "That's why our faculty voted overwhelmingly for the name change."

He said the name of the degree will remain the same and the school intends to continue developing the library studies program.

After Schement's presentation, discussion was opened to members of the audience and Renee Swartz, chair of the Monmouth County Library Commission and the State Library Advisory Council, said a name change can be good if it sends a positive message.

"In this instance, the only change that is apparent is the dropping of the words ‘library studies' from the name of SCILS," Swartz said. "The only message this conveys to the community is a negative one."

She said this message was not in the best interest of the school or the University and questioned why there was so much haste in the decision. Change without vision is hollow, she said.

"Dropping a key component in the name of the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies deletes all connection to that glorious past of academic excellence that has made SCILS a hallmark of higher education," Swartz said.

But Claire R. McInerney, chair of the department of Library and Information Science, was in support of the change.

"All of our faculty, all of our available faculty who voted did vote in favor of this name change," she said.

McInerney said the library studies department at the University is consistently ranked in the top 10 across the country and hopes to become the preeminent program in this regard.

"We do have one stunning advantage. That advantage is that we have colleagues in journalism, media studies and communication [who] share our values," McInerney said.

She said there is no other program that has this combination of scholarship and teaching.

"We think this name change does bring us together and models collaboration among departments," McInerney said. "So we think it's a proper name that tells the world that we're strong in our commitment to multiple disciplines, but moving forward together." 

SCILS Associate Professor Dan O'Connor said he has been a faculty member for 30 years and was in support of the name change.

The change was appropriate because it brings the departments together to move forward, he said.

When it came time to vote, the board considered tabling the decision to the further meeting but went ahead with the vote and approved the proposal.

Library and Information Student Association Vice President Laurie Feistammel said even students who weren't necessarily opposed to the name change were upset about the process and felt they weren't included.

The change was announced to the students only after the faculty had already voted on it, she said.

"We had a lot of people there in support of keeping the current name and I wish that at the very least this decision could have just been delayed," said Feistammel, a SCILS senior.

She said she thinks there should have been more dialogue with the students.

"They really need the support of the students, of the alumni, of the different organizations," Feistammel said. "I feel like they're undercutting themselves by trying to work around us."

Heather Brookhart

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