If someone was asked to recount the events during the summer of 2011, a recollection of memories and emotions would begin to automatically surge through their minds. For a group of 11 journalism and research students at Temple, it would bring back memories of those life-changing experiences studying abroad in South Africa. The program allowed immersion into South African culture, while conducting scholarly research papers and news stories on a range of cultural, social and political issues.
However, in December 2011, a notice was put on the School of Communications and Theater’s study away website indicating that the South Africa program had been suspended for the summer of 2012. There was no timely explanation to address this abrupt decision. Confusion, concern and dissent were expressed through email and sent to both the dean and assistant dean of SCT.
Yet, it appears to be a lack of transparency and respect for both the current alumni of the trip as well as those students who had submitted applications for summer.
Immediately after the return from winter break in January, four-student alumni of the program, myself included, met with both the dean and assistant dean to discuss the cancellation.
Following the meeting, a press release was distributed giving students what some may call an “explanation,” but what I would like to refer to as a cop-out.
The press release outlines all the great accomplishments of the Summer 2011 group and even goes as far as to state, “In 2011, the inaugural South Africa summer program achieved more than Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater ever thought possible.”
If indeed the program actually surpassed expectations, it is with every bit of frustration that former and prospective participants are still wondering why the program has been suspended for this summer. I believe I can speak for my peers when I can confidently say I learned more in a month studying away in South Africa than I did in one semester at Temple.
For a program that meant so much to so many students, I feel as if we are owed more than what seems to be an excuse rather than an explanation.
The press release recognizes the news stories from me and my peers, which were published on Philadelphia Neighborhoods. The collection of news stories became finalists for the Editor and Publisher EPPY awards in the Best College/University Journalistic or Documentary Report category.
The efforts that our group put forth did in fact enhance the reputation of the journalism department. Therefore, it is both disingenuous and a disappointment that all we’ve received in return is the untimely statement, “unfortunately due to conflicting commitments, the program had to be suspended in 2012.”
There are some ambiguities still surrounding the cancellation of the trip that I feel have not been addressed. Moreover, I believe the efforts to have even received a press release would not have happened had it had not been for our previous meeting.
The trip served as a testament of both personal growth as well as professionalism in our fields. It enabled us to learn more about a new culture, yet sharpened our technical, interpersonal and general life skills. The alumni of the program plan to continue to outreach to the heads of the departments to ensure the program is indeed reinstated in 2013, as planned.
Shanell Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.