As the first month of the Fall 2022 semester comes to an end, DTH University Desk Editor Liv Reilly sat down with Dean Raul Reis to discuss the upcoming year, along with the past and present of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The Daily Tar Heel: What are you looking forward to most as a new dean of the Journalism School?
Raul Reis: I don't have huge expectations about anything, but I have very high expectations for myself in terms of coming to the job. This is an amazing school, which has a legacy and has a history. And I really want to live up to the expectations because I know there are a lot of high expectations. So I look forward to serving the students, the school, the faculty, the staff, in a way that lives up to people's expectations and my own expectations.
DTH: The journalism school at UNC is predominantly made up of white students and faculty. Do you have a plan to extend diversity and how to inform these incoming classes of students that the journalism school is a safe place for them?
RR: That's one of the goals of the plan is to have more representation in the school from across a variety including socioeconomic, LGBT+, racial, ethnic, social backgrounds and first generation immigrant communities and international.
So a multitude and variety of points of view (should) be more represented within the school from the perspective of the students, but also related to faculty and the same thing, making an effort. So in the past month and a half, I've had the opportunity of meeting with search committees, ongoing searches to talk about diversity, bringing my experience from previous institutions and what I learned to make searches more diverse in terms of the applicants.
Where we should be looking, how we should be going about publicizing our positions and making sure that people will come into a safe space, and then prepare ourselves to receive people who are different from us — and then make sure that they are happy here.
DTH: Can you give us the Dean Reis vision? What are you looking forward to and what are you planning to do these upcoming years for the school?
RR: There are a lot of conversations that will happen about efficiencies, about new lines in terms of faculty and hiring more people. We're expanding access and enrollment in the school to be able to offer more spots in classes, because we know now that it's a source of frustration when people can't get into classes.
So how do we offer more required classes that the students need to take? And also how do those classes reflect best practices and where the industry is going? So it is a broader discussion, it's not going to happen and finish even in this year, but we want to get started and we have got started.
DTH: Last spring, the public records were released in regards to the documents related to the University's inquiry of emails of Journalism School faculty. Do you have any plans to address the situation?
RR: One of the things that I want to implement is a process for decision-making that is very transparent and open. So I really believe in building a collaborative environment where people feel heard. If something remotely like that ever happens, I want to be clear about how it happened and how we make sure that it doesn't happen again. How do people feel included in the decisions that are made? And how do we move forward, in a way? By having transparency in the way we make decisions, and by collaborating with trust.
DTH: Nikole Hannah-Jones — this was a big deal in the journalism world. Have you seen any patterns in faculty and staff that you have seen come from the NHJ settlement or the case in general that you would like to work towards elevating in the near future?
RR: One of the other goals that we have as a school right now is coming together as a community to look into the future. So not only look into the past, but look into the past in the sense of, what can we learn and how do we move on?
And so part of my job right now is to really focus on bringing people together and thinking as a school. How do we show to everybody across the country that we are respectful? That we are committed to all this work that we set out to do and issues of diversity and inclusion? And how do we set a standard for ourselves?
DTH: As a dean of a school whose education focuses almost solely on the First Amendment, how do you plan to address this with our student body and making sure that the news that we report is honest, true and what everyone needs to hear?
RR: I think those are basic principles of journalism, of great journalism. And we want to be, bar none, the best school in the country. So we really have to pay attention to those ethical and professional principles that we have. Later this month, September 21, we will have First Amendment day. And we have an incredible lineup of speakers and panels.
We are bringing a group from the University of South Carolina, so they are coming up with students and faculty from South Carolina. We also want to bring participation from other schools in the state, including HBCUs. And having students and faculty also converge on this campus to talk about the First Amendment.
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