Columns, Opinion

People Watching: C’mon with the COM jokes

In the face of a tidal wave of papers, projects and exams, I have begun to question why so many of my Boston University colleagues believe the coursework in the College of Communication is a fat joke.

Ever heard, “Yeah, but she’s in COM,” or, “You can go out on weeknights because you’re in COM.” I have increasingly found that these things are anything but true. My perception of my coursework may be distorted by my pursuit of a dual degree — or I may just be an overachiever — but those who actually believe COM is easy clearly don’t know what getting a degree from this school entails.

I am studying public relations and political science. A Bachelor of Science in PR requires 48 credits, or 12 courses and a semester-long pre-approved “professional experience.” A Bachelor of Arts in political science, however, only requires 44 credits and no professional experience. The degree pathway for PR is also much more structured, as only 16 credits are available for electives whereas 32 credits are electives for the Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.

“But COM classes don’t have exams!”

That’s funny — I type as I look at my to-do list and see “make CM180 [Understanding Media] and CM215 [Principles and Practice of Public Relations] final exam study guides.” 

While PR is more performanced-based by nature, my professor for the latter course opted to have a written exam and a performanced-based assessment. So while College of Arts and Sciences kids are crying over their study guides in their review groups, I’ll be doing the same — before I suck it up, put on my business attire and present a full-scale three-year public relations plan to my class and professor. This presentation, mind you, is based on a more than 30-page report my team and I began in September.

The same holds true for my other COM course. In addition to typing up a lengthy study guide full of abstract media theories, I am writing a collaborative research paper on the growing popularity of Disney+ as a means of audience segmentation, analyzed by applying the Diffusion of Innovations Theory and the Uses and Gratifications framework. I wish I was kidding, but I actually used that previous sentence to impress a boy. 

I couldn’t do that if COM coursework was empty and trivial. To compare, my Introduction to Comparative Politics course opted only to have a final exam.

Moreover, COM places a huge emphasis on field-related extracurriculars. The Daily Free Press is churned out daily by a majority-COM staff that spend hours editing work by majority-COM writers and photographers. I’ve heard veterans of PRLab, COM’s student-run PR firm, describe their work as a full-time job, serving clients such as Goodwill and Ben & Jerry’s. 

Relatedly, ADLab, PRLab’s advertisement-developing counterpart, describes its staff as “fueled by coffee and adrenaline” on their website and serves clients such as Century Bank and Boston Medical Center. BUTV10, COM’s student-run media production and distribution network, produces 18 series in the categories of news, drama, sports, comedy and “variety” — or anything that doesn’t fit neatly in another category.

If COM were such a joke, it wouldn’t attract the renowned faculty it does year after year. Take Mike Fernandez, for example, a professor in the Department of Mass Communication, Advertising and Public Relations, who still holds the title of youngest press secretary in the history of the U.S. Senate and served as CEO of PR giant Burson-Marstellar. 

Another achieved COM faculty member is Paul Schneider, who has directed more than 30 movies for television that have aired on channels including ABC, Disney, Lifetime and Animal Planet. 

If COM were such a joke, there wouldn’t be a wall in the lobby dedicated to all the COM alumni who have won Pulitzer Prizes — currently 17.

All things considered, maybe non-COM students should pause before using “COM” and “joke” in the same sentence.

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