BU's Controversial Program To Train Journalists Will End

A controversial Boston University (BU) program that has trained about 70 Afghanistan resistance fighters as journalists will end this month with members of the BU faculty still divided over the project's integrity.

The College of Communications program will end, faculty members said, because it has accomplished its mission of training a large number of resistance fighters as journalists able to document and publicize events in their country's war against the Soviet Union.

"The program is ending now because we're really ahead of schedule, Jake Smith, associate dean of the College of Communications. The school was expecting to take 18 months to train the resistance members, but the project actually required less than a year, Smith said.

Some university faculty members still voice their opposition to the program, saying that because it is entirely funded by the federal government, it has compromised the school's journalistic independence and damaged its reputation.

"I think the project has very much damaged the name of the College of Communication and further damages it every time something new comes out about it," said Bernice Buresh, associate professor of journalism.

"I don't think anything has been undermined by government money," Smith said. "In fact, BU accepts less government money than most other colleges in the Boston area, including MIT and Harvard," he said.

Buresh said that faculty members who support the project have subjected its opponents to "verbal harassment."

She said that because former Dean of the College of Communication Bernard S. Redmont opposed the project, two of the school's associate deans distributed among the communications faculty McCarthy-era newspaper clippings that identified him as a Communist. Redmont resigned as dean last year over the program.

In addition, Buresh said, current dean H. Joachim Maitre--who founded the project--wrote her a letter, distributed to faculty members, that stated that she had made "propagandistic and manipulating statements" against the program, Buresh said.

But if not everyone is pleased by the program, at least questions concerning its legality have been largely resolved, officials said.

Lawyers at the United States Information Agency (USIA), which funded the project, last month believed that CBS had broken a federal law by broadcasting footage shot by one of the Afghan trainees. The law that the USIA thought the network might have broken concerns the "systematic distribution" of material produced by projects funded by the agency.

"We never saw any actual confirmation that [the allegations were] true," said Joseph D. O'Connell, spokesman for the USIA.