MCMA dean’s status to be announced today

By Gus Bode

Interim Chancellor John Dunn today is set to announce the future of Manjunath Pendakur, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

Dunn is scheduled to announce his decision on the dean’s five-year review to the college’s staff and faculty at noon.

Radio-Television Professor John Downing – co-chair of a committee formed in September to review the dean’s tenure – would not discuss the committee’s recommendation, but said it followed protocol for a five-year review.

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He said the committee submitted a report of more than 40 pages to Dunn in December that included the findings of a confidential survey given to all MCMA staff and faculty.

Alumni and former faculty have criticized Pendakur, saying he lacks interest in hands-on, career-oriented curriculum. In a letter sent to the SIU Board of Trustees in May, MCMA graduates urged for Pendakur’s dismissal.

The dean could be not be reached for comment because he is visiting family in India, and is not expected to return until Feb. 17, said MCMA Associate Dean Gary Kolb.

Kolb said the college has achieved much since Pendakur took over in 2001.

“Things are going well here and that, I think, would reflect in a positive way on Dr. Pendakur’s leadership,” he said.

Kolb said the college has hired strong faculty, made progress in curriculum reform, and worked well within budgetary restraints.

He said the latter has been the biggest challenge.

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“That certainly has impacted what we’ve been able to do and challenged us to work effectively with the resources that we have left,” he said.

Brandon Geier, a senior from Roselle studying radio-television, said the faculty members the dean has brought in recently to the television production program are focused too much on theory.

He said he looked at applications for the positions and was disappointed in some of the choices made.

“There were some people with great TV experience, but they didn’t have an MFA, so they were overlooked,” Geier said.

He also said MCMA requirement classes developed in Pendakur’s tenure revolve too much around theory.

“I think more detailed classes with teachers who have actually been in the real experiences would better help students get a job after they graduate,” he said.

Amit Kumar, a first-year doctoral student from India in film studies, said Pendakur played a large role in his decision to come to SIUC.

He said Pendakur’s combination of practice and theory separated the program from that of other universities.

“I think he’s pretty flexible between having a blending of theory and practice,” he said.

Kumar said the theoretical background the college provides is important.

“You need to know and understand the theory if you want to make a kind of media which can bring any kind of change,” he said. “If you just want to make blah and just get a job, that’s another issue.”

Kumar said he would rethink his status at the university if Pendakur is removed as dean, but is optimistic that will not happen.

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