Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of the Association for Communication Administration 28 (1999), pp. 137–144.


Used by permission.


Eight years ago, in the first week of the 1991 fall semester, the Acting Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs announced a series of vertical budget cuts that included the elimination of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s department of Speech Communication (now Communication Studies). Over the next seven months the department fought against the proposed action. In March 1992, the Budget Reduction Review Committee voted against the Vice Chancellor’s recommendation. Later in the month, the Academic Planning Committee also voted to rescind the budget cutting measure.

These actions ended the battle and assured the continuation of the department. In an earlier JACA article, Seiler (1995) reported on the circumstances leading up to the Senior Vice Chancellor’s actions and detailed the various steps that were taken to counter the attempt to eliminate the department. In this essay, we move away from a discussion of crisis management to reflect on the vulnerabilities and strengths of communication departments in the larger university. This past April the department completed its second Academic Program Review (1993 and 1998) since the budget crisis. These reviews were, in large part, an evaluation of the legitimation strategies the department has consciously pursued over the last eight years.

In what follows, we consider the general strengths and weaknesses of communication departments in the context of thinking about the reasons for Nebraska's vulnerability to budget cutting and its subsequent survival and growth. In a concluding section, we suggest a policy agenda for departments.