College of the Sequoias journalism program in limbo

College of the Sequoias students produce The Campus, which shifted from a print and digital program to web-only. The program has been put on hiatus without an instructor. Courtesy/College of the Sequoias

The College of the Sequoias currently lacks a journalism instructor, and its online newspaper is on a “temporary hiatus” without an adviser. As the Fall 2022 semester wrapped, word spread that The Campus, the college’s student newspaper, was put on ice.

The Campus informed readers through Twitter and Instagram on December 12 of the immediate suspension of its news site and social media.

“As of today, December 12th, 2022, The Campus Journal and its socials are on a temporary hiatus. As a staff, we thank all of those who read our stories and watched our video content this past semester, and we hope journalism will be brought back to COS sometime in the near future,” the newspaper’s statement reads.

Confusion persists surrounding the fate of the newspaper and the program: the college’s catalog shows ten journalism courses, with six relating to the production of The Campus – the newspaper is organized as a series of classes rather than a club.

It’s also the only journalism program between Fresno and Bakersfield. Representatives for the college say they are searching for ways to bring the program and the newspaper back to life.

“We are looking at various options for continuing The Campus newspaper class for Spring 2023 and actively searching for qualified journalism faculty to lead this effort,” said Lauren Fishback, the college’s director of marketing and public relations.

Two newspaper-related classes, and a “Writing for New Media” class, are listed as requirements under the college’s Associate in Arts in Journalism for Transfer (AA-T) program. They are not currently offered in the Spring 2023 semester.

Only two journalism courses are currently offered: “Mass Communication” and “Intro to Digital Photography.”

“Over the past several years, COS has struggled with enrollment into The Campus newspaper class,” said Fishback.


Searching for a new instructor

Judy House-Menezes retired last year, and has been the newspaper’s adviser since 1992.

The college has not hired a permanent replacement since her retirement; though, for the past year, the program has been run by Shailin Kennedy.

Kennedy declined to comment for this article.

House-Menezes told the Valley Voice that the journalism program was comparable in enrollment to colleges of the same size and met the enrollment requirements for a “lab class,” which allowed a lower number of enrolled students to compensate for the amount of time required from students.

“It’s an easy thing to say that there is low enrollment, but it’s not true. Other colleges the same size as COS had similar enrollment rates. I gave them the statistics when I worked there and [the college] still thought it was low,” said Menezes.

Program review documents from the 2020-2021 academic year written by House-Menezes detail some challenges faced at the time.

“The program is a small, one-person boutique program. There are enrollment pressures from the college even though enrollment is in line with other colleges the size of COS. Increasingly, students do not declare journalism a major as they start their studies. In some cases, they are actively discouraged to join or are told to wait closer to transfer to join. Many students find it along the way, and sometimes it is too late for them to fully participate,” the documents read. “In addition, students confuse Communication (speech) with Mass Communication. The two are, of course, separate disciplines and a student who wishes to go into broadcast journalism needs to know how to write. The lack of repeatability that the state instituted a few years ago hurt many small programs, including Journalism. The Campus no longer prints which is in keeping with today’s world. But that also makes The Campus almost invisible on campus. The Campus is often viewed as a club instead of an academic program.”


Importance and impact on students

The hiatus of The Campus is shocking to past student Natalia Mendoza, who worked as the editor-in-chief on the newspaper from 2021-2022.

“My feelings towards The Campus being on a temporary hiatus is that it is unfair. It takes away knowledge, opportunity, and experience from the real world for someone who wants to make a career out of [journalism]. It completely takes away from the first amendment right – everyone deserves the right to get their voice heard, especially through a college campus newspaper,” Mendoza said.

Menezes firmly believes in the importance of having a journalism program and newspaper.

“First of all, it is much more than a journalism class. It teaches students leadership, time management, and it gives students confidence. It gives them a sense of community, and there isn’t just one job where you need communication skills. You get to know a lot of people and it opens up a new world for students. I had students that were so shy and then they would come alive,” Menezes said.

The college, for its part, acknowledges the importance of the Journalism program and The Campus.

“COS recognizes the importance of the study of journalism to our local community and the broader population and we look forward to an updated and expanded program in the near future,” a statement reads.

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  1. COS will be making a mistake if it tries to run the newspaper as a club. While that works at residential campuses, though rarely well, California community colleges are commuter campuses. The time involved in working on a newspaper makes it difficult to sustain as a club activity. And, of course, students will not be able to earn AA-T degrees with club activity. As the article points out, working for the school newspaper in a class setting is a requirement for the degree. How long will COS try the doomed-to-fail experiment of a club activity?

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