Bridging borders across majors

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • January 26, 2017

At issue: Unnecessary departmental division

Our take: We could learn more together

 

Emerson has been hailed as a trade school for media makers. With such a specific focus, it’s a wonder that we have so much division between programs. The only collaboration between majors happens in liberal arts courses, organizations, and student projects. As a group of primarily journalism students, we’ve got a bit of a slanted perspective toward our department on this editorial board. The examples we use here may be major-specific, but we feel the sentiments of these experiences have made students across the college repetitively slam their heads against the wall in frustration.

As magazine writing is a very standard piece of journalistic media, it’s surprising the opportunity to learn about it is only available in the writing, literature, and publishing department. Of course the option to minor is there, but the registrar doesn’t make it that easy. To make sure that people pursuing their major get into the classes they need first, registration restrictions prevent people minoring in the department from registering for up to two weeks—allowing plenty of time for classes to fill up. This may seem insignificant, since minors don’t show up on that sweet diploma come graduation. But these classes represent valuable education, and the inaccessibility could lead to magazine-driven journalism majors going out into the world unprepared.  

And if a student journalist aspires to tell stories through film, a documentary film course could offer a new form of reporting and storytelling. Unfortunately, the three prerequisites for this introductory-level documentary filmmaking course are classes only visual and media arts majors really need to take.

Professors taking their students outside of the classroom for learning opportunities is never a bad thing, but sometimes these chances are unnecessarily department-exclusive. It’s hard to not cringe when thinking back to October when a group of writing, literature, and publishing students got to tour the Boston Globe, the newspaper you read everyday—and hope to work at—the same week that the head of the journalism department invited you to the Walker Building to eat pizza.

Some examples aren’t as drastic. Students in the WLP department receive notifications about submitting writing for competitions, internship opportunities, and working for on-campus publications. These emails are not forwarded to the journalism students, even those in the WLP minor programs, and even those who make up the staff of these publications. The opportunity emails for the journalism department, in comparison, are few and far between.

This does not have to be a one-way street, as there are certain journalism classes that would benefit other majors. For example, visual and media arts and writing, literature, and publishing students who are interested in nonfiction could gain key skills from the ethics class required

for journalism students. Emerson majors have a lot of overlap and students should be able to take advantage of this fact instead of having to go out of their way to find these classes.

Of course, there are some apparent problems with letting anyone in a class. First, why would you let inexperienced students into higher level classes just to drag everyone else down? And second, students have a hard enough time getting into classes they need for their major. Why would you want people outside your major cluttering the rosters?

There’s a reasonable solution: offer sections of classes only open to students outside of the major. The VMA department already offers a video production class exclusive to non-majors—if that’s possible, could there be a way to one open section of Writing for TV for the WLPs out there? It would ensure that everyone is on an even level of experience, and no one would have to worry about extra-cramped classes come registration.

We can all benefit from breaking these barriers and learning outside of our strict, intended career paths. Students shouldn’t have to create their own majors to take the classes they want. At a communications school, we should pride ourselves on at least being able to communicate across majors. When students’ educational opportunities are restricted, nobody wins.