Columbia Graduate School of Journalism to reduce enrollment, cut about six positions

Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, tells colleagues: “We believe it’s best for the school to return to a smaller student body size” after years of expansion, and “with regret, I’ve reached the conclusion that we must eliminate about half a dozen positions at the school.”

Coll’s memo, sent at 12:03 p.m. ET today:

Dear Colleagues,

We have been talking for the past year about our plan to strengthen the school by bringing our class size back down toward its historical norm from the high water mark that we reached after the recession set in and graduate student applications skyrocketed.
Like many schools, we accommodated that demand, and now we believe it’s best for the school to return to a smaller student body size. This adjustment will preserve our capacity for hands-on and intensive teaching that is a trademark of the school. A second decision has been the focus on increased scholarship fundraising across the school, to raise as aggressively as possible the amount of scholarship funding per student. Combined with the reduced class size, this will continue to strengthen our ability to attract high quality and diverse students.

The step-down of our class size will continue to take place over the next several years, and most changes brought about by this will be gradual. To date we have managed these adjustments through a series of measures including OTPS budget reductions each of the last two years and not filling all vacant positions, including some faculty vacancies. These steps have been effective but we still need to implement additional changes now, as we prepare for the next school year’s budget. We’ve run out of room to meet our goals with the kinds of methods we’ve used the last two years./CONTINUES

With regret, I’ve reached the conclusion that we must eliminate about half a dozen positions at the school. Melissa O’Keefe and Paul Schuchert, along with the University Human Resource Department, have joined me to work with the employees affected by these reductions to help them with this transition with as much generosity and care as we can. The university has also been supportive.

Simultaneously, as we restructure, we are reorganizing the school’s management:

* The Admissions office will report directly to me, and I am looking forward to working with Christine Souders and her team.

* Ernest Sotomayor will continue as the Dean of Student Affairs overseeing career services and student services. I have also asked him to accept the additional position of Director of the school’s Latin American Initiative, working with schools, employers, funders, and alumni to broaden and deepen our engagement. One of his first assignments will be to launch a version of the highly successful summer investigative course that he and Sheila developed.

* Bruce Shapiro and the Dart Center will report into Sheila Coronel and Academic Affairs, to advance our events and research about journalism.

* Shaye Areheart will be assisting Janine Jaquet in overseeing professional programs and continuing education.

I will be hosting a town hall meeting tomorrow at 10 AM in the World Room to discuss these changes and their context. I hope to see you there.

None of us takes these changes lightly. But as I will have a chance to say tomorrow, the school is in a very strong position. We are growing in new fields, as evidenced by the Tow and Brown Centers and our new data concentration, which attracted more than fifty applications in its first year. Demand for our investigative and documentary programs this year exceeded all previous records. Returning to our historical size overall requires adjustment and patience, and we are already on our way to making the school more accessible and better resourced for every student.