By Tara Rothrock
Contributing Writer

The Communication Studies Department voted Tuesday to place the Social Media Theory and Strategy (SMS) major into moratorium due to the loss of key faculty and resources.

Nine out of the twelve faculty members present at the department meeting voted to move the program, according to Keith Massie, the Social Media Area coordinator and the co-architect of the SMS major and minor.

Since the Communication Studies Department houses this program, they are faced with strain and added responsibility due to the current lack of SMS professors, according to department chair Mary Eicholtz. Within the last couple of years, the department has lost two professors, including Angela Cirucci and Urszula Pruchniewska. Pruchniewska was the first official hire for the SMS program, according to Massie.

The lack of faculty and courses has created uncertainty and anxiety for the current SMS majors and minors as well. Adrienne Haines, a KU junior who is a Social Media and Strategy major, said it has been hard to enroll in the required courses for the major.

There are now doubts about the future of this program, which currently has 130 students. The move is not supposed to affect current students, but the program will not accept new SMS majors once it’s in moratorium, according to Massie. “If it is not stopped or slowed in the process somehow, it (moratorium) would likely take effect for Fall 2023,” Massie said.

The minor will still be offered to students, despite the major being unavailable. Eicholtz said the Communication Studies Department will continue to work to serve the SMS students and give them something that’s of value.

Since this is an interdisciplinary program, there were questions on whether one of the departments that make up the SMS major can move the program in moratorium, or if there had to be an agreement among all three. The departments that construct the SMS program include English, Communication Studies, and Business Administration.

In interviews held prior to Tuesday’s vote, Business Administration Department Chair Gary Chao, English Department Chair Jonathan Shaw, and Massie all expressed their thoughts on the matter. “I know they are working on some proposal and I want to see what the new proposal could be,” Chao said in an interview Friday. Shaw also said that the English Department hadn’t taken any formal vote on this issue.

Before the vote, Massie had said that he didn’t think the move would occur. “Moratorium is used usually when a program is dying,” he said. “Right now SMS has over 60 majors and over 70 minors, which makes it big.” The program is expected to have at least 42 majors in the Fall of 2022.

Shaw had also stated before the vote that a moratorium did not sound “productive.”

“The department, as a general principle, is not supportive of taking a major that has a valuable, sustainable number of majors enrolled in it and putting it in moratorium,” he said. “That does not sound productive.” When a program goes into moratorium, Massie said, it isn’t gone forever. The program could be taken out at any time and possibly moved to other departments.

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