By Adam Zaki
Published: November 29th, 2017
In an email sent out to students on Thursday, Nov. 16 by Katherine Fry, the Chair of the Television and Radio Department, it was revealed that John Anderson, the Director of the Journalism and Media Studies (JAMS) department, is resigning after the end of the Spring 2018 semester.
Anderson also serves as the faculty advisor to Brooklyn College’s radio station, WBCR.
“There has been a rumor circulating that the [JAMS] program within the Department is in danger because Professors are leaving, required courses will not be offered in the future, and students will not be able to graduate in a timely manner,” wrote Fry in the email.
After attempting to reassure students about the program’s current state and future in part by writing “the JAMS program is not in danger, that students will get the courses that they need, and that the JAMS program is in fine shape,” Fry broke the news by stating in her email, “It is true that the current Director, Prof. John Anderson, will be leaving Brooklyn College at the very end of this academic year—early June, 2018.”
Some students were made aware of Anderson’s resignation one day prior to Fry’s email, when Fry spoke in Professor Claire Serant’s Fundamentals of Newswriting class, where Fry announced Anderson’s resignation in person to students.
Serant told her class that they would have two guest speakers in that day: Professor Brian Dunphy, the Director of the Television and Radio major, and Fry. Among the class, JAMS student Richard Ngo was in attendance and was shocked by Fry’s announcement.
“[Serant] did give me a little hint, that Dr. Fry had something to say about the JAMS program,” said Ngo, when asked whether or not he any idea of Fry’s reason for her appearance in his class.
“[Fry] told the students if you ever had any concerns or about [JAMS], or if you were afraid that the degree program would be so bad that it would end before you graduate, don’t worry about it, everything is going to be fine,” Ngo said. “Only after that, did she give the bombshell news that Anderson was leaving.”
According to both Ngo and the email, Fry’s intentions were to clear up any rumors that were circulating about Anderson’s future on campus. Fry did not respond to a request for comment.
Ngo had no knowledge of these rumors prior to Fry’s appearance in his class. Upon inquiry, The Excelsior was able to contact a student who did hear rumors of Anderson’s departure. This student wished to remain anonymous.
“About a month ago, another student told me that Anderson was thinking about quitting,” the student said. “I don’t remember if I asked why or if I got a response that explained why. I might’ve just assumed it had to do with the dysfunctionality of JAMS and TVRA.”
The student shared this information with one other person in the JAMS program. The student is a member of Serant’s Fundamentals of News Writing, and witnessed Fry’s announcement first hand.
“She was literally like, ‘I’m here to dispel the rumors about the JAMS program,’” the student said. “I was honestly shocked.”
“I don’t know where this leaves the future of the program since Anderson is the mastermind behind it,” said Jared Marcelle, a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism program who found a mentor in Anderson after taking Communication Law and Policy with him.
Marcelle made a recent appearance in Anderson’s Journalism and Society course, where he spoke about his experiences in journalism and how his relationship with Anderson has developed over the years. The two even hinted at starting a podcast together, while also reinforcing the ideas about journalism taught in JAMS through Marcelle’s experiences working as a radio journalist.
“I found out about JAMS when I was finishing up my Broadcast Journalism degree and was envious of those who’d get to be a part of it,” he said. “JAMS is a more well-rounded program. I credit [Anderson] for helping me flick the switch in my head to understand the importance of doing meaningful journalism.”
While discussing the future of JAMS in her email, Fry made no mention of the future of the radio station.
“[Anderson’s replacement] might not have the same sense that the radio station needs to be fiercely independent from the stupid office politics and bureaucratic gobbly-goo that is the television and radio department,” said Ngo, who holds the position of News Director at the station.
Ngo feels the station’s autonomy is threatened with Anderson’s departure, along with the credibility of the JAMS major in the future.
“This is a situation that I really, really dreaded,” he said.
I was deeply saddened by [Anderson’s] decision to leave,” said Ray Walker, the President of WBCR. “I’ve looked up to him personally and professionally since I came to Brooklyn College in 2015. His passion for doing things the right way is something I hope to emulate in my future.”
When asked about how Anderson’s departure will influence the station, Walker said “the station will go on as is.” All board members of the stations hold their positions for one academic year, so Anderson will depart when all of the board members are up for reelection.
As far as a replacement for Anderson is concerned, the most likely candidate would be MJ Robinson, who shares an office with Anderson and teaches the capstone course in the JAMS program. Robinson is an Assistant Professor of Journalism and New Media in the Television and Radio Department. She also serves as the Graduate Deputy Chair of the Master’s program in Media Studies.
The processes of getting a line to hire new faculty is extremely difficult, and Robinson seems to be the most qualified and accessible person for the position in the department. Other speculations of considerations include Miguel Macias, who is deputy of the MFA program, and associate professor within the Television and Radio department.
In a statement made by Anderson, he dismissed the legitimacy of The Excelsior, failing to give further comment on its inquiry.
“This has been on my mind for a while now and there’s a lot of elements and experiences that factored into it,” Anderson said. “I’ll make a proper accounting to the appropriate parties, but I’m sorry to say your paper ain’t one of them.”