Notes from the Dean on Qatar & more

    First, Dean Lavine’s comments relating to your questions. These aren’t necessarily complete answers or the answers you were looking for, just what he had said when I pushed your concerns.

    Tom Nunlist’s question about juggling Medill 2020 and Qatar

    Lavine: “We will do nothing in Qatar that takes resources away from the change we’re going to do in Chicago, Evanston, Washington, Teaching Media, all of those things – that’s absolutely first.

    There hasn’t been any significant discussion of which faculty may go, although some have definitely expressed interest.

    The details about financing, including where student tuition would go, has not been worked out. The curriculum would be a “mirror image” of the one here, with the exception that there will be Arabic-language opportunities.

    To clarify, journalism classes will *not* start this fall. They will more likely begin some time in 2008. If the deal is finalized, he said Medill would have to prepare the technical and logistical infrastructure first, including news bureaus in Doha and possibly other cities, a broadcast studio, Internet computers and servers, etc.

    I asked who in Medill is working on this at the moment, and he said barely anyone – the significant work will be only be started after a deal is complete, he said.

    Andre Francisco’s question on free speech in Qatar

    Lavine said that American universities have received no inquiries or interference from anyone in Qatar about what they teach or do and that he discussed these issues at length when he visited Qatar. Qatar has specifically said they want universities to teach their classes in their own way.

    Regarding free press in general, based on his conversations with people at al-Jazeera and other publications there, government interference is not really an issue, Lavine said. It’s worth noting that Freedom House, a group that tracks political freedoms around the world, finds that while the government rarely takes direct action against the media, it does use money and family ties to keep an eye on it.

    Freedom House also says Qatar has an Internet monopoly and censors what the government deems sexually and politically sensitive content. Lavine says that monopoly is ending soon, and that from his experience using the Web there and from talking to journalists there, Internet censorship is not an issue.

    Nomaan Merchant’s comment regarding the curriculum delay

    Lavine says the revised Medill 2020 curriculum will be out by the end of April or early May. (It had originally been scheduled for February, I believe.) The overall deadline is that the Class of 2010 gets the new curriculum in mid-May or so. Lavine attributed the delay to the fact it is a “monumental task” and the committees involved span all parts of Medill and have been synthesizing a huge amount of information.

    The quality of writing instruction at Medill, and the rate of change at the school and in the industry also came up. More on those, and Qatar, as I work through my notes and the audio of the interview.

    Feel free to comment, analyze and speculate in the meantime.


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