Former colleague Trevor Dawes has written a thorough piece about a name change proposed by the faculty of Rutgers’ School of Communication, Information and Library Studies (SCILS). They have voted on and approved a new name, School of Communication and Information, and it is now awaiting approval from the Board of Governors.

Trevor received e-mail from a current SCILS faculty member after getting involved in a discussion of the name change on a listserv. I find part of that e-mail1, specifically the rationale for the name change, absolutely puzzling:<blockquote>We just have so many programs now – we can’t possibly cover all of them in our school’s name. School of Communication and Information is something of a compromise name, but it does encompass all our departments and programs in the school. </blockquote>

So in order to cover more programs, the name of the school ought to communicate less? Does dropping “Library Studies” somehow represent Journalism, Media Studies, and Informatics students more?

I fail to see how removing “Library Studies” makes the name of the school more meaningful. Why not follow this rationale to its logical conclusion, then, and shorten the name to School of Information? Or iSchool? Or how about “School?” Yes, that’s it, “School!” Then all the departments and programs are equally well-represented. Huzzah, faculty!

I should be clear about my objection. I don’t mind SCILS becoming an iSchool. In fact, I think my education there could have benefited from a more iSchoolish curriculum. But any problems with the school then were not related to the name, and I doubt they are now. What I object to is the oddball rationale for the name change, and the notion that in order to affect change and improve the school, well, clearly a change in name will do the trick! It’s putting the cart before the horse, especially when the MLIS program lacks a core curriculum2. This is change in name only and that is perhaps a missed opportunity.

  1. Taken out of context, true. 

  2. An opportunity for real change, though I will admit that there are good arguments against having one.