As EWU Removes the Journalism Major, Students Are Left Feeling Shortchanged


By Jazmine Reed, Contributor

Journalism student Summer Sandstrom was devastated and in fear of not being able to graduate after her major was removed in 2021.

Following finding out that she would still be able to receive her degree, she felt and still feels that it was an irresponsible and unfortunate decision for the university to have made.

“It removes a source of education from students in rural communities surrounding Spokane, and it removes an affordable option for receiving a good education and degree in journalism for many Washington state students,” she said.

EWU removed both journalism majors: news editorial and public relations; and minimized funding for the student paper, The Easterner.

“It removes a source of education from students in rural communities surrounding Spokane.” -Summer Sandstrom, Journalism Major

Students like Sandstrom will be among the last students at EWU able to major in journalism. In recent years, aspiring journalists at EWU have not only seen the university remove journalism as a major, but they’ve seen the campus paper lose funding for its print product as well. Now, students like Sandstrom feel robbed of their education.

Pete Porter, Chair of Fine and Performing Arts Department, was involved in the process of the major being removed. He said there were several reasons for the decision.

“I would describe it as a confluence of two faculty retiring, declining enrollment, and budget pressures that made re-hiring on those faculty lines impossible,” Porter said.

The Decision

The decision to cut the program was first formally discussed in an email October 22, 2020 when Brian Levin-Stankevich, the provost at the time, recommended the journalism major be discontinued along with other programs, as the university had to cut its budget due to low enrollment.

2018 Enrollment data courtesy of Eastern Washington University | Graphic created by Erica Halbert

Chris Valeo, EWU English Department Chair at the time, and Bill Stimson, journalism Department Director, received this email as the first step of a process to collect data to respond to the recommendation.

Next was an initial program review where staff answered informal questions to provide qualitative data about their department that was suggested to be removed. This was a part of the initial data collection process to determine which programs agreed to be removed or had the option to appeal.

Valeo and Stimson agreed with provost’s recommendation that the journalism major can be removed, but they requested that it stay as a minor.

“Because of retirements in our department, we had already come to terms with the fact that we would probably not be able to continue with our other Journalism Major (BA JRNM/News Journalism). We are committed to the preservation of the Minor, however, for several reasons,” Valeo and Stimson wrote in an email to Melissa Bedford, chair of a committee that was reviewing the journalism program.

One of those reasons, they said, was that they believed in the importance of an independent student newspaper at EWU and wanted to protect its quality and integrity. Without a journalism major, they feared the paper would suffer as well.

Students could recieve coupons to local businesses in the printed edition of The Easterner.

“We know from discussions with Student Affairs and ASEWU that the budget and product of ‘The Easterner’ will change going forward, but the standards should not,” they said.

Valeo and Stimson stated that students at EWU maintained interest in studying journalism as they advocated to keep the minor.

Fast forward to January 28, 2021, Julia Smith who was the president of Faculty Organization at the time, shared with faculty that the Journalism BA, among other programs, was being “voluntarily inactivated,” according to an email obtained by The Easterner. The minor, however, was being kept.

From there, the decision was approved by Undergraduate Affairs, the Graduate Affairs Councils, and the faculty senate. And on June 24, the EWU Board of Trustees unanimously approved the administration’s Program Review recommendation finalizing the removal of the journalism major, keeping the journalism minor, and offering public relations, but as a communications major.

For journalism students, it was a major blow.

Student Response

Lorna Hanson, an EWU Senior who declared journalism as her major prior to finding out about the program removal was shocked after finding out this decision.

“I didn’t learn anything from it.” -Lorna Hanson, EWU Senior

Following this decision, she felt as if the quality of the journalism classes declined as journalism staff numbers declined.

“With one professor specifically, it felt like EWU hired them on simply to say that they had a professor for the class. The professor didn’t have a clear direction for the class, and we did two assignments for the whole course. I didn’t learn anything from it. The class was supposed to be JRNM 400, but instead it was merged with JRNM 100, a class I’d already taken a year prior, and it ended up becoming a redo of JRNM 100,” she said.

Lorna said she did nothing for JRNM 400 because the professor did not create assignments for it and fell very disappointed. She realized perhaps EWU was shuffling journalism students along and did not pay mind about the quality of classes.

“Just as long as all the current journalism majors graduated by Fall of 2022,” she said.

This led to Lorna completely switching her major.

Michael Spearman who is also majoring in journalism, feels as though the program has not prepared him to enter the journalism profession following his upcoming graduation.

Mike Spearman is a reporter at The Easterner. He joined the team in 2021.

“The school doesn’t provide in-person instruction to the students leading to a lack of office hours with the professors, no chance for community and networking, and basic writing assignments that end up providing no increased knowledge on how to write,” he said.

The students who declared before the deadline will be able to finish the degree. But sophomore Tahrae Bear Eagle who planned to declare journalism as her major, did not make the deadline.

She has yet to declare a major, but still wishes to pursue a career as a reporter after graduation.

When talking about the major being no more, she says, “I am slightly disappointed, because I am very passionate about it.”

How This Affected the University Paper

At The Easterner, looking back to 2018, times were much different. The journalism major was not removed, staff was well past the now 6 student limit for the budget, and print copies of the weekly issue were thriving.

Siipola, who has since graduated from EWU, who was employed at The Easterner during the 2018 school year worked for the news section.

“When I was working at the Easterner, faculty/staff in the Africana Studies lounge located in Monroe 207 appreciated that I would bring them a copy of the Easterner since not very many of them have social media or checked their social media on a regular basis. Also, by me bringing copies up to the lounge it sparked engagement between the students and faculty/staff with the content that was covered and how it was good and what could have been better,” she said.

The Easterner covered news, sports and campus activities. (Graphic by William Hayden)

Kaisa was against cutting the print version of the weekly issues and anticipated what would happen to The Easterner, as far as not being able to continue to reach as large of an audience.

During the pandemic, the student government, ASEWU, cut funding for the print version of The Easterner. Since then, staff at the paper have wondered if all funding for The Easterner will be removed. And without the journalism major, staff has had a hard time recruiting

students to join the paper because for years, journalism students have made up the majority of The Easterner’s staff.

Recently April 22, 2022, The Easterner budget was then up for discussion. The consensus was that although there have been budget cuts in the past, The Easterner is meant to stay the same.

“The consensus of the committee was to recommend continued funding for the Easterner at its current level. The motion was unanimously approved,” said ASEWU Finance Vice President Judson “JT” Fillingim.

Although it seems that The Easterner is “safe” this year, when comparing to the budget cuts related to the journalism department, and the past budget cuts to The Easterner (such as paper-copy prints, and staff number limitations) this does not necessarily put The Easterner staff’s minds at ease.

“Students cannot voice their opinions, thoughts, and concerns about events on campus.” -Keri Kelly, Co-Managing Editor

“When I found out that the journalism program was being cut, I was concerned about the future of The Easterner. It is a great opportunity to branch out into other departments, but we need a journalistic foundation to keep ourselves credible,” said Keri Kelly, co-editor-in-chief for The Easterner.

She was especially concerned about students losing their voice on campus.

“Without The Easterner students cannot voice their opinions, thoughts, and concerns about events on campus,” she said.

When print was cut from The Easterner Kelly says it immensely affected the way The Easterner advertised themselves.

“We have had to focus heavily on social media and word of mouth advertising. Students used to walk by the stands and pick up the paper out of curiosity,” she said.

Without this physical presence on campus, students seem to have no way of knowing The Easterner exists according to Kelly.

“In interviewing students on campus, many have expressed to me that they wish they knew the news but did not know where to find it,” said Kelly.

When budget cut season comes around each year, The Easterner Staff fears their program being removed as well.

Now that the journalism major has been removed, The Easterner has had budget cuts, and some journalism students feel unfulfilled or unprepared, what happens now?

Campus was forced to shut down at the beginning of May’s presidency. This affected several student organizations. (Emily Powers)

What Happens Now

Pete Porter says it is now up to the students to bring back the journalism major.

“If I were to make an educated guess, a critical mass of students who wished to major in journalism would be somewhere in the 50 students range in order to attract attention. The initial answer would be to create a degree pathway in Interdisciplinary Studies from Communication, English, Photography, Film, and perhaps another discipline that might lead to podcasting opportunities. Any coursework where writing is ongoing and intensive might contribute to this pathway,” he said.

On the Academic Affairs Program Review page, it is stated that the program review feedback period has ended. When feedback options are available, they will be posted on this web page: Program Review – Eastern Washington University (, for anyone to give feedback on decisions made.

Summer Sandstrom emailed the Board of Trustees to express her concerns about making this decision and attended a Zoom public comment meeting that was held by faculty and other university staff involved in making these decisions.

In her comment, she mentioned that she believed that removing the journalism major was wrong.

“I thought it would be a disservice to students to get rid of the most affordable journalism program in the state,” Sandstrom said.