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Despite rumor, pop culture department to remain

A floating rumor that the University might shut down the Department of Popular Culture due to financial issues was debunked by Angela Spence Nelson, department chair and associate professor, and Simon Morgan-Russell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.’ The rumor was news to Nelson. ‘I haven’t heard anything like that at all,’ she said. ‘There’s a lot of talk about budget issues on campus right now and people’s contracts not being renewed … I’m thinking it’s probably connected to that, because that’s the big thing on everyone’s minds.’ Nelson said no money has been taken away from the department, and that its operations have been running as usual. ‘If they would say that they were going to take away our operating budget, then we would have a problem,’ Nelson said. ‘I’m hoping we wouldn’t be told such a thing … but I haven’t heard any kind of talk like that at all.’ Nelson said she wondered where the rumor was coming from, and she thought it seemed ‘kind of odd.’ ‘Even if something were coming down the line, it seems like our department would know,’ she said. ‘This is my seventh year as department chair, and I don’t recall anyone saying the Department of Popular Culture [was] going to be shut down.’ According to Morgan-Russell, no decision to close any department has been made in the College of Arts and Sciences. The Department of Popular Culture is doing well, Nelson said. ‘We’re just as strong as ever with our classes, and students really, really like our film classes,’ Nelson added. ‘I mean we’re bursting, every semester.’ Nelson said the Introduction to Popular Culture class (POPC 160) is especially popular with students, and that the department has ‘never had to close down an intro class because we didn’t have enough students.’ ‘I think we have a good future, just based on student interest where it stands even right now,’ Nelson said. Benjamin Phillips and Sarah Lafferty, graduate students in the department, both voiced a strong commitment to popular culture at the University. ‘It would be a detriment to the University for them to fully close the department because it draws both international and national students for its graduate program,’ said Lafferty, a graduate of Rhode Island College and vice president of the Graduate Student Senate. ‘I wouldn’t have come here without that specific department.’ ‘I haven’t really heard any rumors about [the department closing], and I hope that the program doesn’t get cut,’ Phillips said. ‘It provided me with a wonderful opportunity these past two years, and it would be a shame if future students didn’t get the same chance that I did.’ Phillips organizes the Popular Culture Colloquium Series for the department, which he described as ‘a monthly opportunity for faculty members at Bowling Green and [from] surrounding communities to share some of their recent research in a friendly and helpful environment.” He invites one faculty member per month to give an hour-long presentation and hold question and answer sessions afterward.’ ‘It’s a great way for students and faculty to learn about research avenues within popular culture,’ Phillips said. ‘It’s fun to hear what people are researching.’ The final colloquium will include thesis presentations by Phillips, Lafferty and Stephanie Plummer, another graduate student. The colloquium will be held Thursday, April 16 at 11 a.m. in the 207 Mylander meeting room in the Union.’ The Department of Popular Culture is currently in its 35th year at the University, and Nelson said a celebratory symposium has been discussed for next year, in conjunction with the University’s 100th anniversary.

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