ASU’s Walter Cronkite School Takes Its New Dean Search Slowly

Niki D'AndreaSeptember 16, 2020
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Illustration by Angelina Aragon
Illustration by Angelina Aragon

After revoking a job offer over alleged microaggressions, ASU’s journalism school takes its second search slowly.

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University made headlines in June, when an outcry led to incoming dean Sonya Forte Duhé being ousted before she started.

Everything happened quickly online. Some of Forte Duhé’s former students at Loyola University New Orleans posted claims that she made racist and homophobic comments. ASU students saw the posts and started an opposition coalition. A petition to ASU president Michael Crow and executive vice president and university provost Mark S. Searle was circulated and signed by more than 4,000 students and staff. Four days later, ASU revoked Forte Duhé’s job offer.

ASU junior Nicole Shinn, vice president of the campus chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, was integral to the campaign. “We were able to establish ourselves as a coalition before being recognized by ASU and the Cronkite School by creating a social media presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook,” Shinn says. “That was a really good way for us to be able to connect to students and make our mission known.”

The online discussion stretched beyond students to faculty, with many publicly posting their opposition on their own social media outlets, including Cronkite School adjunct professor Tuesday Mahrle and English professor (and Phoenix Poet Laureate) Rosemarie Dombrowski.

Kristin Gilger, senior associate dean at the Cronkite School, stepped in as interim dean during the search – a process that could stretch into spring or summer 2021. The school established a new search committee this fall, which will include student feedback. Searle says the search will start anew and anyone is welcome to submit their credentials for consideration, including former finalists.

“We’re doing our best to make sure everybody does have a chance to meet candidates, or at least interact with candidates in some way and have thoughtful conversations about things that are important to people,” Gilger says. “I think it’s better to be deliberate about it and inclusive.” Searle said in a statement, “As we have learned in recent months, the next dean must both lead and listen as we have overdue conversations about how students, especially students of color, experience the Cronkite School.”

Shinn says she’s looking for someone innovative who has an infectious love for storytelling. “And ultimately, someone who cares about their students, no matter what they look like or what they bring to the table.”

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