EDITORIAL: Program, staff cuts hurt students

Illustration by Ricardo Rivas/The Et Cetera

Illustration by Ricardo Rivas/The Et Cetera

Ever since the consolidation to one college began, the administrators and Dallas College Board of Trustees have said the changes being made are for the students.

A very rosy picture has been painted as to how students are in line to benefit from the reorganization of Dallas College, but it has not been rosy for all of us.

We do not pretend to speak for all Dallas College students, but we would like to give you a snapshot of how the consolidation is affecting us.

On Friday, we helped our student media manager clean out her office. She was on maternity leave when she found out her position with Dallas College had been terminated. She had been expecting it and so had we, but that did not make it any easier as we watched her go through desk drawers and listened to her wonder aloud where she should go to turn in her key and employee name tag.

We are sad for her, but we are also sad for us. And angry and worried. As students pursuing careers in journalism, we are wondering how the loss of our full-time adviser is going to affect our future.

The Et Cetera is a finalist for the Pacemaker in print and digital this year, the highest award available in college journalism. The newsroom walls are lined with Pacemakers from other years, six in all, as well as individual awards given to our editors, photographers and graphic artists. This summer The Et Cetera was named to the Associated Collegiate Press’s Pacemaker 100 list, meaning we are one of the most decorated student news organizations in the entire country.

Recent graduates have gotten jobs at the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, NBC Universal, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Amarillo Globe-News and Estrella Media. Many others are working in public relations, graphic design and social media management.

There is no denying we have talented students in our newsroom but having full-time advisers has been absolutely crucial to our success.

They look over our shoulder and show us what we could have done differently to make our photos and graphics better. They give us suggestions on what information our news stories lack and where to get it. They open doors of opportunity for us by recommending us for scholarships and submitting our work for national awards.

North Lake’s only student media adviser was laid off Oct. 1, as was the only staff member at Richland who oversaw the radio and television studios. What is going to happen to students who want to study broadcast journalism?

We understand that the idea behind the reorganization is that positions that were duplicated on multiple campuses all be consolidated into one or two individuals who will travel from campus to campus.

We can see that working well in some areas, but journalism is a highly specialized field. How can a handful of individuals traveling from campus to campus effectively provide the support that was previously provided by full-time staff dedicated to a single campus?

If sports are allowed to retain full-time staff on each campus, why can’t we have that privilege too?

As we see the mentors we have looked to for guidance on how to turn our raw talent into marketable skills disappear, with no replacement in sight, we see our opportunities slipping away.

We do not blame any one person or group of people, we are simply trying to share the realities of our new normal. The people who knew our area and all the ins and outs of how it worked were taken away. The system that we used to be able to navigate has changed, and we don’t know to whom we can turn to help us find our way.

We feel like we are being reduced to numbers and statistics instead of real-life students who need support with our goals and dreams.

The Et Cetera was in existence for over 40 years before winning its first Pacemaker in 2011. Building programs takes time, and we feel like we have been sent back to square one.

We have chosen to speak about the effect the reorganization has had on student media because it is the area we know best, but we are not an anomaly.

The layoffs that affected student media also affected the drama program. The technical theater director at Eastfield and her assistant were laid off on Oct. 1, leading us to assume that the large theatrical productions Eastfield put on for so many years are a thing of the past. How will drama students be affected by this?

We have talked to music students who have told us the classes they need for their field of study were canceled or moved to other campuses this fall. The enrollment was low, considering we are all returning to campus after being away for a year-and-a-half, and the classes didn’t fit into the algorithms of the new scheduling system.

Music students who live 15 minutes from Eastfield are having to travel more than half an hour to other campuses when those courses used to be accessible in their own back yard.

We do support the vision for Dallas College. We are excited about the opportunities one college will afford to many students.

But we are concerned that in the execution of the reorganization process, small but successful programs are falling through the cracks.

Dallas College trustees, can you help us? Instead of simply saying the reorganization is for the students, can you sit down and talk to us and hear our views and our needs?

Please don’t send us a survey that might get lost in our inbox and will only make us feel more like a statistic. Come to our campuses. Meet with students. Ask them what they need, and then be willing tweak the vision if needed.