A longtime College of DuPage journalism professor who was removed last summer as faculty adviser to the student newspaper is leaving the school in August.
After 25 years at the Glen Ellyn school, Cathy Stablein has submitted her letter of retirement to college officials. That doesn't mean, however, that she's retiring from teaching or professional editing for good, she says.
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Administrators stripped Stablein of her adviser title in June so she could devote time to restructuring the college's struggling journalism program. But students who worked on the Courier newspaper argued that Stablein's removal was in response to the award-winning paper's often critical coverage of the administration.
Stablein said it was a "head scratcher" when she was asked to retool the journalism program since she already had infused elements of technology into existing courses. She said the courses she restructured were basically like putting on "a fresh coat of paint."
"The college wanted updated courses and I was a little puzzled. It was hard for me to update something when I felt it was updated," she said.
Stablein has since recommended the addition of a "social media through news" course.
She said she enjoyed working with students as adviser to the newspaper, which she called "the capstone of the journalism experience" at COD.
"If you're a chemistry teacher or biology teacher, you have a lab you work with," Stablein said. "If you get separated from that lab, it's kind of a broken link."
COD spokesman Joe Moore wouldn't comment on Stablein leaving the college, but did issue a statement about the future of the school's journalism program.
He said COD Executive Vice President Joe Collins will evaluate a report on the program expected to be complete early in February, and will then make a decision whether to continue the program, keep it under "Critical Program Review" status, or discontinue it.
College officials have said they owe it to taxpayers to evaluate programs with weak enrollment and determine if they are still viable. Ideal enrollment is at least 20, Moore said.
During the fall semester, 52 students were distributed across two sections of a news reporting and writing course. This semester, there are 41 students in two sections.
Seven students were enrolled in a newspaper lab course in the fall, and eight in the spring.
A total of 19 students were enrolled in Introduction to Broadcasting in the fall, but the course was canceled in the spring due to low enrollment. A feature magazine lab course was canceled in both semesters due to low enrollment.
Stablein said there has been a steady decrease in the number of students taking journalism courses over the past four years.
Enrollment can be like the stock market, she said. "Some people will jump ship."
But Stablein suggested her departure also will allow the school to cut salary and benefits costs. There's only one other journalism professor at COD.
"What I did basically is hand them a gift. If you take away my costs, maybe you can hire part-time people," she said.
Stablein's retirement from COD must still be approved by the college's board of trustees. Her last day at the school is scheduled to be Aug. 5.