’80s brought new breed of faculty

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.

In the late 1970s the elements of the old speech department were found in interesting places. Fragments were found in English (film), art, psychology, history, philosophy and political science.

Those members of the faculty who listed “communication” as their specialty existed in the seemingly flexible but at the same time diffuse area of special studies. As people crave families perhaps faculty and students crave departments.

The trouble with having a department of communication is that the term is all-embracing; all departments should communicate just like all departments should pay attention to writing skills. What can be done with an area that emphasizes method as much or more than material?

The field has attracted incompetents, dilettantes, and charlatans who were only interested in feeding their own vanities. It has also attracted serious scholars who saw a definite need to explore how and why man communicates.

Speech has been called the oldest of the academic disciplines and has, in its time, embraced many forms of transmission right through the electronic age. One of its problems is trying to do too much or confusing its art with theories of science.

Fredonia entered the ’80s with a young, well trained, and enthusiastic faculty with a core that stayed together for more than 20 years. There were and still are a large number of interested students.

Also by the ’80s there was a growing demand for a formal communications program. Students in this period had to construct their own majors in a program labeled “Special Studies” or “BASS” – Bachelor of Arts in Special Studies.

This “Oxford-like”program had many advantages but as the numbers grew from seven to seventy it was quite a strain on the small faculty.

Finally a proposal was drafted for a major with components in radio (audio) and television; later divisions included those incorporating the latest in “Human Communication.” One has to give the major credit to Dr. William Jungels, who chaired the committee responsible for establishing the requirements.

Dr. Jungels would go on to develop a number of innovative courses and produce some cutting edge programming. He also served for many years as chair of the personnel committee.

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com