Hampton Journalism School Lands Tony Brown
Brown named dean following resignation of Christopher Campbell
By Ronald Roach
Still reeling from the controversy over the fall 2003 confiscation of student newspapers by its then acting president and provost, Hampton University has named TV journalist and best-selling author Tony Brown as dean of the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications. The late July announcement by Hampton president Dr. William Harvey comes in the wake of a July 14 resignation by Dr. Christopher Campbell, who had held the dean’s job for nearly a year before resigning. Brown will assume his duties as journalism and communications dean on Aug. 30.
Citing Harvey’s authoritarian style as an obstacle to a journalism program that truly respects free speech, a free press and academic freedom, Campbell says he made his resignation effective July 15. This month, he will assume the chair of the journalism department at Ithaca College in New York state. Though Harvey has been on sabbatical for the past year, the longtime Hampton president had met with Campbell a few times and clashed with him over ideas about journalism and journalism education, according to Campbell.
“If you’re critical or you question authority, then you’re not loyal. As far as I am concerned, that (attitude) is always going to be a problem when you’re trying to run a journalism school because you’re encouraging students to question authority and to ask tough questions,” Campbell says.
Hampton officials have expressed glee over the Brown appointment while at the same time reassuring observers that the university’s expanded journalism and communications school is on track to fulfill the expectations that has accompanied its relatively recent multi-million dollar expansion. In 2002, Hampton’s mass media department expanded into a journalism and communications school and moved into a newly constructed building with the support of $10 million from the Scripps Howard Foundation.
“What we have now is strong executive leadership in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism,” according to a statement by Harvey. “Mr. Brown is known as a team player who throughout his life has worked to solve problems and create successes for those with whom he associates.”
Brown is the commentator of the PBS series, “Tony Brown’s Journal,” the longest running of all PBS series. He is the former chief executive officer of Urban America Television Network, which has about 30 million viewers.
An educator, Brown was the first and founding dean, as well as professor, of the School of Communications at Howard University. He is also a former faculty member at Central Washington University and Federal City College. Brown earned a bachelor’s in sociology and a master’s degree in psychiatric social work at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Hampton provost Dr. JoAnn Haysbert, who has been the acting president during Harvey’s sabbatical, says Campbell’s resignation came as a surprise to the administration. She said it required decisive action by her and Harvey to find a replacement as quickly they did with Brown. “Chris Campbell did not give his resignation until July 14. There was a need to expedite the search process for a new dean. We put all of our spokes in the wheel into action,” she says.
Campbell says the difficulty in his relationship with Harvey stemmed in part from the October 2003 incident involving the seizure of an edition of the Hampton Script, the student newspaper, by the school administration after a letter from Haysbert ran on page three rather than on page one as she had requested. Haysbert had written a letter to the newspaper in response to student articles about health-code violations in a campus cafeteria, and ordered the newspaper seizure when her letter did not run on page one (see Black Issues, Dec. 4, 2003).
“Dr. Harvey complained about me talking to the media during that controversy and after that controversy, and thought it wasn’t appropriate. Here’s a situation where we are trying to build a journalism school and the university is really showing disregard for some of the most fundamental notions and basis of journalism, the First Amendment and student journalists having rights to freedom of expression,” Campbell says.
Haysbert says there was a “difference of opinion” between her and Campbell at the time of the controversy, but added that the appointment of a taskforce and the administration’s acceptance of the taskforce recommendations on the role of the student newspaper had resolved those differences.
Campbell says he decided to leave Hampton after coming to the belief that the administration wasn’t taking the taskforce recommendations seriously and noting Harvey’s continued dismay with (Campbell’s) leadership. “I felt we were doing a lot of the right things (and) that the recommendations that came out of the taskforce were good ones. But I also felt the university was disregarding them. It just seemed to me I didn’t have the support I was going to need to do this. There fundamentally needs to be a change in the attitude about freedom of expression and the First Amendment,” Campbell says.
Prior to his Hampton appointment, Campbell had been the director of the journalism and mass media program at the University of Idaho and at the mass communications department at historically Black Xavier University in New Orleans.
Judith G. Clabes, president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation, has said that the Hampton Script controversy helped make Campbell’s year at Hampton a tough experience. “I wish he’d stay longer. We’re sorry he’s leaving,” Clabes told the Virginian-Pilot, adding she did not think the departure would set the program back.
Prior to Campbell’s appointment, Charlotte Grimes, a veteran Scripps Howard reporter and the mass media department director who was slated to become the first dean of journalism and communications school, clashed with Harvey over the role of investigative journalism within the curriculum and she left the program. Grimes teaches political reporting at Syracuse University.
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