The dean of Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts has officially reassigned the chair of the embattled journalism department. Dean Linda Halisky confirmed to New Times on Aug. 10 she sent a letter to department chair Bill Loving informing him of his dismissal. As of press time, Loving said he had not received the letter, but was expecting it.
Halisky asked Loving to step down on Aug. 5 but he refused.
“I didn’t want to endorse what the dean was doing, which I don’t think addresses the underlying problems within the department,” Loving said.
Graphic Communication Department Chair Harvey Levenson will take over as acting chair of the journalism department on Aug. 20, Halisky said, while the college searches for a permanent replacement.
“I’ve charged the faculty to come together and Harvey is tasked to facilitate that,” Halisky said. “That will be a full-time job, but Harvey is historically good at bringing people together and appealing to their best nature.”
Loving was hired to head the department two years ago after serving as chair of the Mass Communication Department at Idaho State University. The department, by many accounts, was already plagued by conflict among faculty members when Loving arrived. He is the third journalism chair removed by Halisky in the last eight years.
“There have been a number of contentions between faculty and staff,” Halisky said. “This issue goes back a long way.” She added that she had been contemplating dismissing Loving from his position since May.
According to Loving, events boiled over in the summer of 2009 after a tenured faculty member complained to the dean about changes in office arrangements. Halisky then reportedly sent Loving an e-mail saying he had not handled the matter properly.
“My relationship with the dean soured after that. She said that I was antagonistic with faculty and staff and that I was telling people it was my way or the highway,” Loving said. “I asked [Halisky] on several occasions to let me respond and each time she declined to do so.
“Every department has faculty that don’t get along, and faculty members are entitled to their complaints. That’s not what’s destroying this department,” Loving added.
The journalism department has been in an eight-year battle to regain national accreditation, which Halisky and Loving admit is now on the back-burner. Other faculty worry the entire department is at risk of being dissolved, with courses being distributed among several other departments.
Halisky has directed faculty to create a new mission statement, review the curriculum, and develop a new strategic plan by March.
“It’s not really a deadline; I’m not trying to threaten anyone,” Halisky said. “But this department has been going wrong for so long and I now have the third provost in my career asking me what’s being done with this department.”
Loving will remain a tenured professor with the department and teach a full course load this fall, she said.