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Arguably the greatest college journalism program in America—Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism—plans to drop its accreditation status because it takes up too much staff time, according to its dean.

In a letter to alumni, Dean Brad Hamm said that investing 18 months and hundreds of hours of faculty time is not worth the effort.

“That time is better invested in our students, our signature programs on five campuses, our research and creative activity, and our partnerships with leading organizations in the U.S. and around the world,” he wrote.

Hamm noted that the University of California–Berkeley also has opted out in the past year.

The accrediting agency for journalism schools is the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications that was established in 1945 as the American Council on Education in Journalism and is headquartered in Lawrence, Kans., according to its website.

In an apparent jab at the group’s leadership, Hamm said in his letter that “as we near the 2020s, we expect far better than a 1990s-era accreditation organization that resists change—especially as education and careers in our field evolve rapidly.”

He added: “We hope ACEJMC will commit very soon to changing its leadership, strengthening and updating its standards, and improving the review process.  We also expect that ACEJMC will treat all constituents, especially diverse organizations, fairly and with respect.”

Hamm noted that Medill recently added a site in San Francisco “to lead our field in innovation and technology,” and that it has “tripled financial support over the past five years for student participation in internships, international programs, professional conferences, and domestic reporting and projects — with a goal of being need-blind in student experiences by 2021, our centennial.”

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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4 Comments

  1. Medill skips accreditation

    The fact that the journalism program is under attack for its “Innocence” project which may have helped free the guilty and jail the innocent while casting the police and prosecutors as villains may have had something to do with the university not wanting to have the Medill School reviewed by an accrediting agency. It is an ugly scandal and it has cost the university plenty.

  2. Fake degree in fake news

    For a school like Northwestern/Medill to forgo accreditation is laughable. Stating their decision is rooted in their belief that the process is “flawed”, ineffectual and a waste of time is even more absurd. Accreditation serves many purposes, including the fact is provides students the expectation of a quality education that has been validated through stringent review. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Medill has held accreditation continually for the last 30 years. By tossing aside its credentials, the students are now barred from taking part in the celebrated Hearst Journalism Awards Program, hailed as the “Pulitzer Prize of College Journalism.” The article also mentions, “Medill students have placed first in the writing contest 12 times and have won about $600,000 in scholarship and grant money through the contest since 1989” Apparently NU feels all of this is a fool’s errand. I would suggest the University chose not to pursue accreditation more likely on the basis of the upcoming lawsuit involving the Innocence project and the discovery of information the school certainly does not want made public (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/22/the-innocence-project-on-trial-in-chicago). In the end, the likelihood of NU being granted accreditation was highly unlikely. Choosing to quit and fault the process is the more preferred path for NU to take. Shame on Medill and NU.

  3. Medill

    Hi “Say What” and “Jane” …

    Were you to take a look at the ACEJMC list of accredited schools, you would see that there are only 111.

    None of the schools in the Chicago metro area that offer journalism programs — which, in addition to Medill, include Loyola, DePaul and Columbia College — are accredited.

    Neither are most other journalism programs around the country.

    During the dozen-year phase of my career when I taught journalism, I worked at both accredited and unaccredited programs and could discern no difference in the quality of those programs that could be traced to their accreditation status.

    As far as I can tell, accreditation is mainly considered to be important at state schools that have status anxiety about their programs. (That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad — just that it’s not essential.)

    If you’d care to learn more about this issue, you might want to read the following:

    J-schools dump accreditor (Inside Higher Ed)

    Steinberg: Would this read better if Medill were accredited? (Sun-Times)

    ‘Kill all the accreditors’ (Forbes)

    — Bill

    1. Who needs accreditation?

      Bill, while we’re both Medill grads, I think you’ll agree with me that this whole fuss reminds one of the oft-paraphrased famous line from the 1948 movie, The Treasure of Sierra Madre:

      “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.”

       – Chuck

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