Dianne Lynch, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, was selected by officials at the University of California at Berkeley last month as their choice for the new dean of their graduate school of journalism. Editor in Chief Erica R. Hendry spoke with Lynch about the search, the selection and how she plans to address the concerns of the Park School community.
Erica Hendry: I guess the question that�s on everybody�s mind is just: What happened?
Dianne Lynch: When I withdrew from the search it was because I looked at the commitments I had made here � and a list of questions I had about some of the things out in Berkeley. It�s an amazing program, it wasn�t that I was concerned about anything but there were lots of question that I had about it. When I looked at the big picture I thought, no, this was not the right time for me to do this. But three weeks ago, I got a call from the [UC Berkeley] provost. And he and I had a long conversation � about what exactly it was I had questions about and what about my current situation would�ve made it difficult for me to take the job … And at the end of that conversation he said, �Would you reconsider if I could � take care of or address all of those questions or all of those concerns?� And I said yes.
One of the critical questions for me was timing. When I withdrew from the search in the spring, the operating assumption was that I would be leaving the Park School in the summer. And I thought, I have a list of eight important initiatives, projects and programs that are underway — all of which I would�ve had to leave if I were to take the job and go to California in August. That was a huge part of my decision not to go, because I�ve been here for three years. It would�ve been unfair and unethical for me to just have upped and walked away from all of those initiatives. So one of the things the provost did that made a huge difference in reopening the conversation was to let me know there was some flexibility about a starting date: that I would be able to come to Berkeley when I felt that I could do so in good conscience and whether I would have the option of coming in fall 2008. That had not been, at least in my mind, an option before. And it addressed my ethical concerns about my commitment to the Park School. The fact that it was an open question allowed other things to become more open questions � And so we started to go back and forth about other things that were issues for me here, some of the practical things that had to do with my life and my family and some of the professional things that had to do with programs and support. So it really did shift and it was not something I anticipated � [or] expected. I have been trying to be as honest and as straightforward as I can.
EH: What is the next step?
DL: While there�s a certain process associated with this when it goes to the [Board of] Regents, the fact of the matter is that there is no formal offer [or] agreement until that happens in the middle of July. Until that happens, nothing is final and nothing is definite. I�m a good journalist and I never assume. So that�s where we are and I have agreed to allow them to do that. I am certainly excited about the possibility of a new adventure. But I will wait until July and then it will go out to our community in a much more formal way to announce that I�m leaving.
EH: So you would accept if you were approved in July?
DL: Yes, if they come back and make me an offer that includes all of the things that we have been discussing I would accept the job.
EH: And then you would begin [at Berkeley] in January?
DL: Yes, I decided that waiting until September of next year is too long. It�s too long for people here.
EH: And I know there are a couple ongoing searches in the Park School right now � How will those be handled?
DL: It�s important to remember that no organization is one person. And the things that are happening in the Park School, I certainly bear responsibility for many of them and I�m more than happy to take responsibility for many of them. [But] the things that happen in the Park School are the collective efforts of the people in the Park School. The journalism search will continue, the television-radio search will continue and the Center for Independent Media will continue. And those are on my list of things to bring to closure before I go, because those are things I�ve initiated and started. I believe in finishing what you start. My goal is that those searches will be completed � Again, I have a list, but even if they weren�t [completed] it doesn�t mean that they won�t be. It just means that it may take more time. There will be people here who will be more than well equipped and qualified and talented to complete those tasks. I�m not worried about the future of the Park school nor should anybody else be.
EH: So would an interim dean step in until [a dean] search began? Or would the search begin at the beginning of the year?
DL: I don�t really know the answer to that, those are the kind of things we would sit down and talk about in July. The fact that I would be here for another eight months means that we have some time and that there would be a smooth transition and that we would make sure that, again, the programs and the projects of the school will continue and progress will continue � But until [July], there�s not a reason to have that conversation.
EH: I know some students are concerned � you seem to have a big fan base. They�ve started a Facebook group, I don�t know if you�ve seen it, called Students Against the Deans Decision. I just wanted to know if you had anything to say to them, or to other students.
DL: I�m going to write to the students and I�ve actually been crafting it … and it has been really hard. This is a very hard decision � I love the Park School. This is not about rejecting the Park School or not loving it here. Sometimes, life presents opportunities that are just too good to pass up. And I hope every single one of the Park students has a life experience where they love where they are and they�re having a wonderful time where they are, and something comes along that is such a great adventure it�s just impossible to say no. Saying goodbye to this place is going to be one of the hardest things I�ll ever do � [But] I�m going to let people know. I didn�t expect to do it until July because I didn�t think that it would be so public … But it�s definitely public and people are talking, so it�s important for me to address it. And that�s the only reason I haven�t, because I thought I would wait until it was final. But I don�t think that�s an option anymore.