CMS Director Leaves For USC Citing Workload, Lack of Faculty

Professor Henry Jenkins, co-director of the Comparative Media Studies program, announced on Monday he will be leaving for a position at the University of Southern California. Jenkins has been with MIT for nearly 20 years and co-founded CMS. He and his wife Cynthia have also served as housemasters of Senior House for the past 14 years.

“This turned out to be one of the most agonizing decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Jenkins wrote on his blog on Tuesday.

“Collectively, we’ve done paradigm-shifting research and we’ve helped launch many careers. I love CMS,” he wrote.

But Jenkins criticized the Institute for not better supporting the CMS program. He said that was one his reasons for leaving. “MIT has been balancing this complex program on the backs of only two faculty,” he said.

About ten years ago, Jenkins launched CMS and has taught 30 different courses on topics ranging from film and television to games and the Internet.

On his blog, Jenkins discusses how he has argued with the Institute for decades to hire more faculty. He wrote that it was impossible for him to continue running the growing program without more help.

“I’m often asked how I manage to do everything I do and now you know the sad answer: I can’t — at least not year after year,” Jenkins wrote. “Even Green Lantern needs to recharge his ring now and again.”

Because the program is strongly entrenched with some 30 research and support staff and is in fact the largest humanities major, it will continue on despite his departure.

The CMS has a strong undergraduate program, but the lack of support for the Ph.D. program is what also contributed to Jenkins decision to seek out a different program.

Jenkins said, “People are now scrambling to see what will be the next phase. There will probably be no Ph.D. program in the future though.” The current graduate program may stop admitting students in the coming year.

Believing that the undergraduate program will remain strong, Jenkins is leaving MIT after this academic year to take part in interdisciplinary research at USC’s School of Cinema and School of Communication. “These two schools have the top Ph.D. programs in the world. It will be exciting to be in the hub of the entertainment industry,” said Jenkins.

In addition to his contributions to the CMS program, Jenkins has had a strong presence around campus. He has been housemaster of Senior House for 14 years and is known for his annual salute to Dr. Seuss during IAP.

While his permanent home may change, Jenkins said in his blog post that he will continue to fly back between Los Angeles and Cambridge to assist the program in terms of research.

The CMS program will celebrate its 10th graduating class this year.