J-School staying put

King’s is known for its traditions: the robes, the Latin, the faux-old stone buildings, the whiff of intellectual superiority that floats down our halls.

It’s not a usual environment to teach journalism, a profession that thrives on newness.

The journalism school at King’s bridges old and new. It’s an out-of-date facility where students learn the skills of modern journalism. And for the foreseeable future, it’s going to stay that way.

The Campus Master Plan

In March 2016, the King’s board of governors approved the campus master plan.

Among other recommendations, the plan puts forward a vision for a revamped J-school. It identifies three requirements:

  • More space.
  • Consolidation between the third floor and basement levels of the A&A.
  • Reconfiguration in line with multimedia industry standards.

The campus master plan was put together by the campus planning committee. It builds on a previous strategic plan for the university, as well as other reports and campus space assessments done in the past.

J-school improvements are labeled “priority one,” and two options are laid out in the plan:

  1. “Open negotiations with Dalhousie University for a cooperative building project to house the King’s J-school, with the goal of project completion between 2019-2021.”
  2. “The fall back option is to convert the King’s gym to the J-school building and move the athletic program, including varsity sports, to alternate facilities.”

Though the recommendation seems concrete and bold, in reality, neither option will likely come true.

(Photo: Daniel Wesser)

(Photo: Daniel Wesser)

Too poor to raise money

Adriane Abbott, the advancement director at King’s, stresses that the campus master plan highlights needs and priorities for the university, but isn’t an action plan.

“Many of the things that were suggested have later been determined as too costly or we’re not actually able to do,” she says.

Abbott sits on the board of governors and the campus planning committee. She says that to her knowledge, King’s is revisiting cheaper options explored for the J-school in the past, like realignment within the A&A.

Anything that doesn’t involve “massive capital projects.” Like many issues at King’s, lack of money plays a part in the J-school’s future.

The campus master plan calls for a capital campaign to finance J-school improvements. A capital campaign, explains Abbott, is structured fundraising focused on the amount of money that’s needed to complete a huge capital project—like a new building.

The University of Toronto is doing one right now, called the Boundless campaign.

Running a campaign like that would require paid fundraising staff, marketing and a huge volunteer base. At King’s, Abbott is the only paid fundraiser.

“We don’t have the kind of budgets that would allow us to do a massive advertising campaign,” she says.

Instead, King’s has raised money for capital projects like North Pole Bay through major gift campaigns, which are a less money intensive way of raising money. Future campus improvements will be funded in the same way, says Abbott.  

The J-school

The J-school used to be entirely in the basement of the A&A, with the library taking up the third floor. When the library moved out in 1991, the J-school moved in.  

Tim Currie, director of the school of journalism, says that even then space was an issue, as the J-school couldn’t fully move out of the basement. Though the split between third floor and basement was never ideal, today it’s a real problem.

In the past, journalism platforms were separated—TV, radio and print. Now everything is multiplatform, which is tough to teach when your radio room and computer labs are separated on two floors.

Currie believes that improving the J-school will act as a recruitment tool.

Other journalism programs in Canada, like at Carleton, UBC and Ryerson, are housed in their own buildings with up-to-date facilities. Of course, those schools are many times larger than King’s.

Carlton moved their J-school into its current building in 2012. According to enrolment statistics, the move to better facilities had no effect on the number of journalism students.  

Residences get priority

If not the J-school, what will the next facilities project at King’s be?

According to Alex Doyle, director of facilities, residence renewal is always front and centre.

“We want to get our residences up to standards that the students expect and parents expect. So that’s our focus right now,” Doyle says.

According to Abbott, the university’s upcoming fundraising goals will likely be centred on furthering residence renovations.

In the 2016/2017 academic year, residence fees made up 10 per cent of King’s revenue. Tuition and ancillary fees from journalism students, both undergrad and graduate, was about seven per cent.

For the J-school, “as far as campus planning goes,” says Doyle, “there’s nothing concrete.”