Confusion, frustration surround cancellation of student journal

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    By HANALEE HAWKINS

    Students, faculty and employees of BYU are frustratated and confused over what they say was an unjust decision to cancel the student Journal of International and Area Studies.

    “Student journals are at the heart of what a university tries to do. It is one of the best things our department offers students,” said Scott Abbot, faculty advisor for the student Journal of Germanic and Slavic Languages. “There is something magical about seeing your words in print and having them read by others.”

    The faculty-reviewed student journal was discontinued May 26.

    Abbot said he thought the journal was going to run for at least another year and canceling the journal was a big mistake.

    Don Holsinger, director of the David M. Kennedy Center, said the journal was discontinued to create a journal more academic in appearance and content — a journal that facilitates more student-faculty collaboration and costs less per printed page.

    The quality of the student journal was good, Holsinger said.

    However, Holsinger said when he asked students affiliated with the Kennedy Center about the journal, he discovered students weren’t using it.

    “They had no connection to it, zero, none,” Holsinger said.

    Grant Skabelund, 11-year advisor of the student published journal, said a student-faculty journal has merit, but there was no communication between himself and Holsinger about the concerns the student journal raised.

    “There was absolutely no discussion. This was an arbitrary decision. For me that’s what has been the most discouraging,” Skabelund said.

    Cheryl Brown, former associate academic vice president, said the new journal will have more credibility in the area of international studies.

    “Being published is important. The other part of the issue is where you are published,” she said.

    Brown said the fact that students will be co-publishers is impressive.

    As the student-faculty journal enhances the reputation of the university and gains greater credibility, students will be part of a program that is more and more recognized, and they will understand the process better, Brown said.

    Skabelund said he doesn’t know how the student-faculty journal can have the same impact in terms of numbers and quality of opportunity. The journal staffed 30 to 40 students and between 40 and 50 students submitted papers, he said.

    Skabelund said he doesn’t know the format of the new journal.

    “My question is are they going to solicit papers from other universities, decreasing the opportunity for BYU students, or are they going to lessen the credibility of the journal by only publishing BYU faculty and students?” Skabelund said.

    Holsinger said the Kennedy Center has six program coordinators exploring different formats for the student-faculty journal, but at this time they cannot describe the new process.

    By involving the six program coordinators, the Kennedy Center is trying to build interdisciplinary unity and a spirit of camaraderie, Holsinger said.

    Holsinger said he was not involved in the journal process and said he does not believe the journal has been discontinued.

    “The way it was run is being discontinued but not the entity,” Holsinger said.

    Skabelund said he had a commitment that the journal would at least run for one more year and the Kennedy Center was moving toward having two journals.

    Holsinger said the Kennedy Center never had a plan to continue the journal for one more year.

    “I think it would be fair to say that we never gave Grant that impression,” Holsinger said.

    However, in a memo sent to Skabelund, Phil Bryson, associate director of the Kennedy Center, said that while the plan was to continue the journal for at least one more year, a new development had caused them to reconsider.

    A copy of that memo was sent to Don Holsinger and Cheryl Brown.

    Liz Hutchings, who spent one semester on the staff of the journal and two semesters as an assistant editor, said the Kennedy Center has dismissed members of the journal staff without giving them a sound reason for canceling the journal.

    “It doesn’t seem like the real reason for canceling the journal has been named,” she said. “You just can’t cancel something without a fair reason, something that has done so much good for others,” Hutchings said.

    Corey Leonard, director of student programs for the Kennedy Center, said it was sad what happened to the journal. He said a lot of miscommunication has occurred, but working with faculty will be a better experience.

    Holsinger said the students who benefited from the journal were editors, not readers.

    “I have to look at 700 students and see how I can get them all involved,” Holsinger said.

    Holsinger said he doesn’t feel the journal will be missed by anyone but the editors and staff of the journal.

    Hutchings said anyone who wanted to could participate or contribute to the journal regardless of what kind of experience they had.

    Jona Kap, a staff member of last year’s journal and next year’s editor, said a faculty-student journal is elite.

    Kap said the student journal provided an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience without having any previous experience.

    “The college atmosphere is where students find out what they want to do. It is a testing period to try new things before you have to go cold turkey,” Kap said.

    Jaime Cobb, a former staff member of the journal, said she attributes her current job as a clothing/catalog designer for a children’s wear company in New York to her experience on the journal.

    As an international relations major, Cobb said she didn’t have many opportunities to learn about design. Cobb said Grant Skabelund and Celeste Keele gave her the opportunity to learn more about the artistic side of publication.

    Kap said she isn’t sure what the faculty-student journal is going to offer for students.

    “Students learn a lot more when they have to take the whole project upon themselves,” Kap said.

    Former editor Shad Morris said along with former editor Ben Cook they have created a journal for practicioners and academics in the field of micro-finance.

    “Without the experience the journal provided, we never would have been able to pull off such a large project,” Morris said.

    Skabelund said at this point the faculty-student journal is all talk.

    “Until you have something better, why kill what you have?” he said.

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