MSU’s Crisis Forum: Raising Questions
Notes on the Forum of 9 February 2018
The Quello Center hosted a one-hour ‘conversation about communication and the abuse scandal’ on 9 February. A small group of colleagues shared their views on communication issues related to the sex abuse scandal as it continues to unfold at MSU. The discussion was held in the Quello Center Meeting Room under The Chatham House Rule, so that no quotes would be attributed to any participant. It was a lively discussion of sensitive topics that raised many questions. The key theme arising from the discussion was around ‘listening’.
First, it was argued by colleagues thinking hard about this issue that the most positive approach we can take to communication with not only external audiences, but also with those inside the university, is to listen, rather than focus on offering our opinions or answers. We don’t need to be a spokesperson for the University or the College. In fact, listening might well be the most valuable approach, particularly in these early days, when we are all still learning what happened. This can help us from being defensive and help demonstrate that we share many of the concerns and questions raised by others. Two days after our discussion, this theme featured in an editorial by the Lansing State Journal, entitled ‘move MSU forward by listening’ (11 Feb 2018).
Secondly, in discussing what we need to convey to all of our audiences, there was general consensus on one simple but powerful message conveyed by one of our group: “We all need to listen to women and girls.” Due process requires all parties to be heard and taken seriously when there are claims of sexual abuse.
|“We all need to listen to women and girls.”|
This message resonated more or less with all on several fronts. First, it is genuinely true, and applicable to all the actors involved with this disaster, from all the institutions to all the individuals associated with the victims and survivors. It is not simply a prescription for MSU. Also, it is a clear and simple message that avoids some of the ambiguities surrounding more abstract notions of the larger systemic or structural issues. There might well be serious structural problems, but at least one participant argued that such general points seem less likely to translate into concrete behavioral norms – certainly at the individual level – than the concrete prescription that we listen to women and girls.
The disaster around Larry Nassar has metastasized into other issue areas, such as the general safety of women at MSU and on other college campuses, and the governance of the university, as two examples. Since it is increasingly impossible to deal with specific issues in this developing mix of related issues, it may be that listening is one of the key approaches that are relevant to all of these assorted issues.
One participant argued that this should be put more broadly, such as applying to the ‘powerless’ and not only women and girls, such as: “We need to listen and empower the powerless.” Another argued that listening is more in the control of all of us, as opposed to empowering individuals and groups, which is a more ambitious and system-centric problem.
Another participant expressed concern that mandatory reporting rules could eliminate thoughtful, supportive conversations about discrimination and harassment. Instead, conversations might be avoided or immediately escalated to a formal investigation. There is no room for actual conversation of concerning or worrisome dynamics. Yet mandatory reporting rules could have the unintended consequence of undermining discussion of sensitive topics or questions, by leading to the response: “If you disclose to me a personal experience of sexual violence or sexual harassment, then I am required to notify ___”.
Other messages found resonance with many in the room, including the simple acknowledgement that “we screwed up and we are dedicated to fixing it.” While we debated the appropriateness of any given message, we also recognized the degree that all faculty and students will be part of the conversation, and it will be exceedingly difficult to orchestrate any given message. Nevertheless, it seemed to all that whatever the message, the College needs to have an authentic voice while also enabling students and faculty to join the conversation without being silenced by fears of saying the wrong thing, or hurting someone’s feelings.
A number of other questions were raised in the discussion, including the following:
A week ago, when this conversation was scheduled, there seemed to be a need for more communication about this disaster. Since that time there has been a virtual spasm of setting up meetings, conversations, teach-ins, free speech events, and more. This is good. However, we want to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts that are rapidly evolving across the university.
At the same time, we need to ensure that the conversation continues long after this initial flood of reactions fades, which it might well do over time. With that in mind, the Quello Center agreed to revisit this conversation in a couple of months to discuss whether there were some issues or activities not being adequately addressed. Given the many inquiries and reviews of this disaster, most only getting underway, there is a need for sustained attention over the coming years. How can we help ensure we continue to listen and learn as the lessons unfold from a predictably long, arduous, but necessary review process?
[*] Compiled by Bill on behalf of all the participants in this discussion, which included Prabu David, David Ewoldsen, Carrie Heeter, Meredith Jagutis, Bianca Reisdorf, Nancy Rhodes, and Nicole Szymczak along with Bill Dutton.
The 1st INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MEDIA AND COMMUNICATION (ICMC 2018), hosted by the Department of Communication Studies of Abu Dhabi University, will be held on March 19-21, 2018 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE. The former director of the Quello Center, Emeritus Professor Steve Wildman, will be presenting one of two keynotes.
The Aims and Objectives of ICMC 2018 are to exchange best practices and promote international partnership and cooperation among academia and media practitioners worldwide and to create an international forum to present, discuss and exchange the latest academic research in media and communication.
Dr Mike Friedrichsen, President, Berlin University of Digital Sciences, Germany, will be presenting the other keynote.
Professor Sandi Smith in the Department of Communication of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at MSU was named of the University’s few Distinguished Professors at a ceremony yesterday at the University Club. She joins Professor Bradley Greenberg, one of her mentors, who received this recognition in 1990.
Sandi and the other newly elected professors featured in a video about their research and teaching. I think everyone in the audience was ready to declare a new major and return to university to work with scholar-teachers like Sandi and the others honored yesterday. They were all seriously inspirational, talented, and dedicated academics.
Here is a photo of Sandi with Dean Prabu David and Professor Kami Silk, the College’s Associate Dean of Research. Sorry about the shading – the room was dark – but you can clearly see how pleased everyone was with the awards.
At the University of York, UK, on 18-20 July 2016, a symposium on Contemporary Political Youth Culture and Communication. Consider submitting a proposal for presenting your work.
Marking the launch of the Centre for Political Youth Culture and Communication (CPAC) this two-day international symposium explores the socio-cultural factors influencing the civic engagement of young people and its means of communicative expression. Young networking citizens in many parts of the world today play a crucial role in shaping the future prospects for democratic societies. The styles, nature and means of their political engagement is therefore of increasing importance to policy-makers and academics alike. This event is focused upon the communicative, emotional, embodied, and aesthetical modes of youth citizenship. It examines the social construction of the political identities of young people within the context of widening social inequality, climate change, reflexive individualism and a networked social media ecology. We welcome papers drawing upon research and theory that address questions of contemporary political youth culture including, but not limited to, such topics as: citizenship norms; political talk; social networking; precarious employment; celebrity politics; personalization; identity politics; social movement protest; community politics; political socialization; civic education; political education; transnational politics; populist parties; youth campaigns; migration politics; and electoral engagement.
Prof. Henrik Bang, University of Copenhagen and Canberra University
Prof. Lance Bennett, University of Washington
Prof. Donatella della Porta, European University Institute, Florenze
Brian D. Loader, University of York, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathan Manning, University of York, email@example.com
Nisha Kapoor, University of York, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please submit title, abstract and brief biog for consideration to email@example.com
by Monday 14th March 2016.
Notification of decision. Monday 21st March, 2016
The Michigan State University College of Communication Arts & Sciences is seeking a large incoming cohort of new faculty members at all levels to fill 15 positions across the college. We seek intellectual leaders who will continue the progressive legacy of MSU in forging new pathways in communication science. We are excited to welcome new colleagues into a collegial, productive, and dynamic environment where collaboration is the norm and not the exception.
The nature of this hire provides a rare opportunity to bring a cluster of researchers focused on particular research problems in novel areas that we have identified in our college strategic plan, including computational science and neuroscience, as well as in existing areas of strength like communication technology and health, science communication , or environment and international communication. If you are interested in any of our MSU positions as an individual or as a group, please contact the search chair from the appropriate job announcement. See cas.msu.edu/places/cas-deans-office/jobs/ for contact information and position descriptions.
MSU understands that seeking, accepting, and maintaining employment often involves considerations about the career of a spouse or partner. MSU offers dual career assistance to the spouse or partner of candidates for faculty and academic staff positions. Please visit worklife.msu.edu/dual-career for further information. MSU is located at the center of a vibrant business corridor representing a total metropolitan statistical area population of 6.5 million people within average U.S. commute time.
MSU is an affirmative-action, equal opportunity employer. MSU is committed to achieving excellence through cultural diversity. The university actively encourages applications and/or nominations of women, persons of color, veterans and persons with disabilities.
Please forward a link to this post to anyone who you would recommend or who might be interested in joining MSU’s rich tradition of award-winning teaching, research, professional and creative work.
Scholars of the Internet and Society
Please take some time to consider this last call for nominations to the Communication and Technology (CAT) Awards Committee for three different awards. CAT is a division of the International Communication Association (ICA):
First, we request nominations for the Frederick Williams Prize for Contributions to the Study of Communication Technology. Send nominations by 2 March 2015.
Secondly, please nominate dissertations to be considered for the Herbert S. Dordick Prize. http://www.icahdq.org/about_ica/awards/dordick.asp We will receive nominations sent by 2 March 2015.
Finally, the CAT Awards Committee has been asked to recommend members of CAT to be considered for nomination as ICA Fellows. There is nothing to prevent members nominating individuals on their own, but if you’d like the CAT Awards Committee to consider nominating individuals, please send us your nominations. See: http://www.icahdq.org/about_ica/fellows.asp
Thank you for your help. Send any nominations for any of these awards to Quello@msu.edu and indicate the ICA Award in the subject heading.
Bill Dutton, Quello Center, MSU
Chair of CAT Awards Committee
Monica Bulger, Data & Society Research Institute, New York City, and Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, UK
Leah Lievrouw, Department of Information Studies, UCLA
Joseph Walther, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, NTU, Singapore
Ran Wei, School of Journalism & Mass Communications
University of South Carolina
Simeon Yates, Institute of Cultural Capital, University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, UK
During my recent visit to Oxford for an Advisory Board Meeting, and Awards Ceremony for the Oxford Internet Institute, I had the pleasure of an impromptu interview with the Director of Voices from Oxford, Dr Sung Hee Kim. You might enjoy the production, the American music, the images from Korea and Oxford, and might also want to challenge my views on the centrality of communication for students from any nation, called ‘Communication in the Modern Age’. The interview is on Voices from Oxford (VOX):
At the last meeting of the Quello Center Advisory Board, in the late Fall of 2014, we discussed key issues tied to media, communication and information policy and practice. The following list is a snapshot of the key issues emerging from that discussion, organized by general categories. Feedback on this list would be most welcome, and will be posted as comments on this post.
Innovation-led Policy Issues
The Future of Content Delivery: Content delivery, particularly around broadcasting of film and television, in the digital age: technology, business models, and social impact of the rapidly developing ecosystem, such as on localism, diversity, and quality.
Wearables: What appears to be an incremental step could have major implications across many sectors, from health to privacy and surveillance.
Regulation of the Internet of Things: Implications for urban informatics, transportation and environmental systems, systems in the household, and worn (wearables above). A possible focus within this set would be on developments in households.
Internet2: Implications for shaping the future of research and educational networking.
Other Contending Issues: Big data, drones, Cloud computing, …
(In)Equities in Access: Inequalities in access to communication and information services might be growing locally and globally, despite the move to digital media and ICTs. The concept of a digital divide may no longer be adequate to capture these developments.
ICT4D or Internet for Development: Policy and technology initiatives in communication to support developing nations and regions, both in emergency responses, such as in relation to infectious diseases, or around more explicit economic development issues.
Digital Preservation: Despite discussion over more than a decade, it merits more attention, and stronger links with policy developments, such as ‘right to forget’. ‘Our cultural and historical record are at stake.’
Evolving Policy Issues Reshaped by Digital Media and Information Developments
Universal Access v Universal Service: With citizens and consumers dropping some traditional services, such as fixed line phones, do we need to refocus on providing a minimal level of broadband access to everyone, independent of devices?
Concentration and the Plurality of Voices: Trends in the diversity and plurality of ownership, and sources of content, particularly around news. Early work on media concentration needs new frameworks for addressing global trends on the Web, in print media, automated text generation, and more.
Freedom of Expression: New and enduring challenges to expression in the digital age.
Media and Information Policy and Governance
Rewrite of the 1934 Communications Act, last up-dated in 1996: This is unlikely to occur in the current political environment, but is nevertheless a critical focus.
Network Neutrality: Should there be Internet fast lanes and more? Issue has been ‘beaten to death’, but brought to life again through the public statements of Chairman Wheeler and President Obama. Huge implications for better or worse.
Future of Internet Governance: Normative and empirical perspectives on governance of the Internet at the global and national level. Timely issue critical to future of the Internet, and a global information age, and rise of national Internet policy initiatives.
The Quello Center has just released a report on ‘Mobile Today and Tomorrow’ by a team of researchers from the Quello Center, Oxford Consulting, and Huawei Technologies. It explores trends in mobile and speculates on future developments. It is anchored in a review of literature, and a set of interviews with leading experts in many aspects of mobile technology, use and policy. It differs from many other overviews in being based on a social science perspective on mobile and striving to be global in its perspective. We invite comments and recommendations on this report and directions for taking further research. The paper is free online as:
Dutton, William H. and Law, Ginette and Groselj, Darja and Hangler, Frank and Vidan, Gili and CHENG, Lin and LU, Xiaobin and ZHI, Hui and ZHAO, Qiyong and WANG, Bin, Mobile Communication Today and Tomorrow (December 4, 2014). A Quello Policy Research Paper, Quello Center, Michigan State University.. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2534236
The headline above was the title of a Quello Center roundtable discussion this afternoon, with the participation of several senior figures of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, chaired by Professor William Dutton.
Here are some of my reflections as an outsider – listener:
First, pay attention to the fact that the topic is “the future of the field“. Is it clear to everyone what field we are talking about? Obviously, you think of “Communication” as the “field”; however it is not so obvious, and what Communication is, as an academic field, is not so obvious as well. Actually, this was the core issue of the discussion in the seminar: the definition and the boundaries of “the field”.
Is it an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary research field? Can scholars from computer sciences, public policy, health education, etc. be considered as communication scholars as well? Are Internet studies, technology engineering studies, etc. part of any Communication department’s syllabus? Are there common research interests for scholars from the Department of Communication, the Department of Media and Information, and the School of Journalism (all of them under the umbrella of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU)? Does the multifaceted nature of the College reflect diversity or fragmentation in the field? Is it positive or negative? All these questions and many others were addressed as topics of the discussion.
For me, as a relatively young scholar (although not such a young man), this diversity in the field is a blessing; it opens a variety of opportunities; it makes “Communication” a very exciting academic field; it allows a real thorough understanding of the social reality within which we live in the 21st century. So yes, old media as well as new media, media policy as well as media technology, journalism as an occupation as well as journalism as a societal phenomenon; Internet as an infrastructure, a fascinating technology, and a public sphere, and so on… All of these are “Communication” for me.
Therefore, I do not find any need for defining or re-defining the field, I do not see any problem with the fact that there are no precise boundaries to the field, and I can only appreciate the fact that scholars of Communication can contribute to other scholarly fields and can be informed by the contributions of other scholars from various disciplines as well.
Avshalom Ginosar, PhD, Communication Department, The Academic College of Yezreel Valley
Visiting Scholar, The Quello Center, The Department of Media & Information, The College of Communication Arts & Sciences, Michigan State University