‘Town hall’ confusion: Columbia j-school alum is told note-taking isn’t allowed at restructuring meeting

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumni and former adjunct Mo Krochmal decided to attend Thursday morning’s town hall meeting after reading about Dean Steve Coll’s restructuring plans. (Coll’s memo – with the meeting announcement – was posted on this site Wednesday afternoon.)

“I was there out of concern” for journalism education, says Krochmal, a class of 1995 graduate. Plans to cut j-school staff and reduce enrollment were on the session agenda.
The journalist got to the meeting about 20 minutes late and found an empty seat in the front row. He took out his phone and a notebook, which got the attention of two nearby journalism school employees. They went over to Krochmal and told him the meeting was off-the-record and he couldn’t take notes or record it.

Krochmal says he was “disappointed” that note-taking wasn’t allowed at a j-school meeting, but he agreed to Coll’s rules so he could stay.

Coll tells me there was confusion about the meeting, which was supposed to be for faculty and staff only. (The dean’s restructuring memo, which gave the meeting location and time, is addressed to “colleagues.”)

Coll writes in an email: “I refer to our quarterly all-staff meetings as ‘town halls.’ They are not public but for full time J-School staff to discuss school updates and plans.

“A note to alumni reporting our intent to hold an all staff meeting gave the unintended impression that this was an open forum. When one or two alums turned up I asked them to follow the ground rules so I could be fully open with my affected colleagues. I regret the confusion but the meeting was fine anyway.”