Senior Jake Wright, a TV-R major at Ithaca College, said the Park School’s crowded nature has many disadvantages, not the least of which is a dearth of talented younger students to mentor.
He feels students are not as passionate as they once were and has noticed a drop in quality in the work produced.
“It just seems like we just let anyone in here,” Wright said. “When you do that, you have a lot of kids in your class who just don’t care. When seniors try to find freshman to teach, there isn’t a lot of promising talent.”
Wright believes the quality of ICTV has gone down since he started here due to the space restrictions. Students are feeling the tight squeeze in co-curricular activities, such as The Ithacan, WICB Radio, VIC Radio and ICTV.
“If you are in a newsroom bustle, you are all working on the same show. Here, there are three different shows with three different show formats,” Wright said.
The Roy H. Park School of Communications is among 5 schools at Ithaca College and is one of the professional training programs. When built in 1989, the building was designed to accommodate about 800 students. In 2018, the school houses more than double that amount with 1,822 students enrolled in Fall 2018. The Park School has 86 faculty members with 50 of those being full time on the Ithaca campus and the same number of square footage from 1989.
“I hear stories all the time that students can’t get into introductory classes until sophomore year, which kind of defeats the purpose of having an introductory class,” Wright said.
Diane Gayeski, Dean of the Park School, believes the school needs more space and faculty to grow and move forward into the future.
Scheduling is tight and many professors are teaching upwards of 21 credits as opposed to 18, which is more normal for the college. Additionally, Gayeski is a proponent of creating collaborative spaces for students to work.
“If you look at the trends in education, the good part for facilities is that students have their own computers and want to do things on their own time,” Gayeski said. “The bad part is that in every discipline there is more collaborative work so students need a place to get together.”
Through the Strategic Plan, Gayeski is hoping to have answers for some of the key enrollment questions for the Park School, including how big should Ithaca College be? Is it a good thing the Park School is almost one-third of the institution or is it over-represented?
Ithaca College is in the initial stages of creating a forward-thinking Strategic Plan to enhance the student experience and create the necessary changes to improve the institution. Jason Freitag Ph.D. is a Presidential Fellow and the Faculty Co-Chair of the Steering Committee. Freitag’s goal is to enhance the strengths of the college and discover the opportunities to improve based on current capabilities, including the combination of a liberal arts education with professional programs.
“The liberal arts component of our campus is the space where students learn communication, thinking, cognitive adaptability and flexibility,” Freitag said. “If you take those skills and what you learn in physical therapy, business or communications, then what you have is the ability to do your technical skill on the way out the door but the ability to think through a situation that is changing when you are in the middle of it. That is the key element of what we do.”
One of the core elements of the planning process is to create a sustainable plan with realistic goals for future success. William Guerrero is the Vice President of Finance and Administration for Ithaca College and his goal is to advocate for the student experience and positive change.
According to the Office of Analytics and Institutional Research, the Park School increased overall enrollment by almost 500 students since 2003, whereas the School of Humanities and Sciences has decreased overall enrollment by the same amount. These statistics are the core of the strategic plan, according to Guerrero.
“What the Park School was designed for has changed. As technology and things are converging, different types of spaces are needed. It is not necessarily that we need more classrooms or faculty space; it is more so how are we teaching,” Guerrero said. “For sure, there is a need for more space, but does it come from someone else’s space?”
Gayeski believes part of the discussion lies in the selectivity of the Park School and the number of students being enrolled each year. If enrollment numbers in Park decrease, other schools will have to increase enrollment to keep the same number of students and tuition dollars at the college. The admissions process for communications majors is flawed because many students have not taken communications classes before, so student grades may not be a good predictor for student success.
“If somebody says they are interested in communications, how do I know that doesn’t mean I just like to watch tv? It’s a real challenge because we may be rejecting students who would be really great and we may be accepting students who when they get here, they aren’t a good fit,” Gayeski said.
ICTV, WICB and VIC Radio advisor Jeremy Menard believes there is an upside to the tight squeeze, as students should be exposed to a hectic newsroom.
“I think it is a good experience for students to be in crowded environments because newsrooms in professional settings are really loud and there is a lot going on,” Menard said.
While the Park School may not have the most space at Ithaca College, they are making it work and alumni recall the special experiences they had during their time there.
“A lot of alumni have told me how special the basement of Park is. Let’s say on a random Monday evening you have television shows happening on one side, radio on the other and a newspaper being put together on the second floor,” Menard said. “There’s something special about that.”
Students between classes on a Friday morning. Photo: Tara Lynch
“We have to balance the resources we have available with what we want to prioritize. We have to start doing things differently. Significant change is going to need to take place,” Guerrero said. “Status quo is the biggest risk that I see. We need to do something bold and different."
At Ithaca College, some schools have grown overtime, whereas others have not, or they have decreased in size. In total, the college has hovered around 6,500 students for the past 15 years, with the exception being in 2009 and 2010 when there were almost 7,000 students enrolled.
Too little space? Students make it work in
The lobby. Photo: Tara Lynch
“In one of the more critical ways, we need more faculty for the number of students we have. We now rely on some faculty teaching overload or contingent faculty. Some of that is intentional because it brings in a professional who can teach, but in Park we are a little over reliant on it. We are literally out of office space," Gayeski said.