By Meg DePanise
Provost Conway-Turner met with Hood College students in a forum held Monday at 8 p.m. in Hodson Auditorium to address concerns regarding schedule changes that are to go into effect next fall. The Provost delivered a presentation and then opened the floor for questions to be addressed by her and registrar Nanette Markey.
Katie Hays, SGA Academic Affairs Chairperson, said the goal of the night was “to dispel any misinformation that may be circulating around campus.” The changes to the schedule have given rise to a number of groups on campus and many students have turned to social media to express their distaste with the administration’s actions.
Hood Student Power is one of the most prominent of these groups. At the forum four members led by Grant Gallagher approached the Provost on stage to deliver their petition signed by 245 Hood students who are concerned about the changes. “We’re asking Hood to live up to those values of hope, opportunity, obligation, and democracy,” Gallagher said addressing the audience and the Provost.
The real schedule changes and “nothing else unusual”
The Provost began her presentation with the basics. “The schedule is sort of the backbone of which everything else particularly during the day happens around,” she said. The schedule is typical of any college schedule and is designed to meet the needs for both undergraduate and graduate students.
She went on to discuss the motivations for the changes. One was to more effectively make use of the entire week. She said that with few Friday classes and common hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays there was a lot of compression in the week.
The current schedule is also designed for three-credit courses. The recent addition of a number of four-credit classes required accommodations in order to meet the minimal number of minutes standard for a four-credit course.
The new schedule also prevents the possibility of overlapping classes. It also is projected to enhance the retention of students and allow students to more successfully complete their degrees within four years.
The Provost said the new schedule will maintain a more effective common hour. The current schedule has common hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m. The new common hour will be 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.
She said that Tuesdays and Thursdays are a popular time for classes so they wanted to regain that time so that students can make the most of it. “But we also heard in the forums that we held with faculty, staff and students that the common hour was very important to students and many others,” she said.
The Provost recognized that choir will be directly impacted by the change to the common hour but the change was made on the basis that the majority of people expressed they needed more time to engage in activities they wanted. “I’m the first to say that no schedule is perfect and that people have to change based on the new change and new common hour so I was aware that the choir would be one of those places that would have to make a change in how you practiced,” she said.
The Provost said that the schedule will continue to have the average student taking 15 to 16 credits, 85 to 90 percent of classes will still be held during the day, and three hours will be reserved on Wednesday for other activities. “Nothing else unusual,” the Provost said.
The Provost provided two example schedules and addressed some major points of student concern. “The notion that somehow you are going to have really long days, it’s not happening,” she said. Students will now have more options with the new time slots provided so that they can more easily finish their requirements.
Another key student concern was time for work, volunteering, internships, and research. “You will continue to do those around your schedule in the same way that you do it now as hundreds and thousands of students have done it before you and will continue to after you so yes, there is flexibility there,” she said.
The new schedule, the Provost said, is “nothing really mysterious, it’s an enhancement of the current schedule.” She continued: “It is student centered in that we are looking to remove obstacles that our students had moving throughout their degrees and it provides you choice and ability to really balance your interest with other co curricular interests that you have.”
The smoke hasn’t cleared yet.
Gallagher commented on the outcome of the forum: “Tonight, Hood students have a lot to be proud of. We went to the forum and delivered a petition with 245 names, that’s one in 10 students after petitioning on three occasions. The Provost gave a promotional presentation and dodged questions. Administration’s supporters in the audience, including one of the SGA execs who decided to work against student opinion before actually meeting with students, heckled us. But we delivered a petition signed by 245 students who are against these changes and want to have a real say in decisions made at our school. I think it’s clear who raised the strongest and most constructive voice, and we’re happy about that.”
Hays said she was appreciative of the Provost coming out and the forum was successful in providing examples and explanations for the upcoming changes. “As the Provost said, no schedule is perfect but I think these changes next semester will go a long way in allowing students more flexibility in their schedule and help them to graduate in four years,” she said.
Drake Halpern, SGA president, wrote this in the SGA February newsletter: “As we look back on the Civil Rights Movement and the changes that followed, we at Hood are experiencing changes of our own. With these changes we venture into uncharted waters at Hood. In these times of change Student Government is doing all that we can to advocate for the students.”
Bianca Padilla who previously served on SGA and now is a member of House Council said that she hopes students got their questions answered. “As a senior graduating from Hood I wish that I could have had these schedule options,” she said. “I hope everything works out in the end and I look forward to see what happens next year.”
While some students said that they feel at ease after hearing the specifics of the changes, others expressed that they are frustrated with other issues. The forum brought concerns regarding Hood’s email system and additional scheduling conflicts, many surrounding the 18.5 credit cap for full-time students, to the forefront.
Junior Sarah Tapscott believes that with the addition of four-credit classes the number of credits a student can take without paying extra tuition should be increased. “The excuse that Hood is actually really giving with the 18.5 is garbage,” she said. “18 isn’t easily divisible by four so people can’t take five classes a semester anymore.”
Other students were more concerned about the process that led to the ratification of the changes. “Regardless of whether or not the changes are positive I would like to know more about the voice that students had in deciding on them in the first place because I don’t personally feel as if our input was effectively given in the actual process of deciding on these changes,” Sandow Sinai who also delivered the petition said addressing the Provost.
She said that three open forums were held. “We repeatedly sent emails out to students inviting them so much that we had some students telling us to stop doing it so we did invite input into the process,” the Provost said. “I’m sorry that you didn’t want to come but you know we did certainly invite students.”
Many students said that they didn’t receive the emails or that they could not attend the forums at their scheduled time.
Some feel that they don’t have enough of a say in their education. “Even the faculty are against these new changes,” Melissa Cutts, a sophomore, said. “One of the reasons that was given to the staff was they are trying to prevent students from partying on Thursday nights.”
Other students were opposed to Monday’s forum being held on a snow day. “You know, I would have gone, but having the thing on a day where classes are cancelled from ice seems like they don’t really care about the students,” Kelsi Harshman, junior, said. “And even if we had classes and no weather, it was still during night classes. Why not schedule it during common hour, or some other time where everyone could attend?”
Attendance of the forum was lower than anticipated with about 50 students and scheduled to end at 9 and last an hour, the conversation lasted only about 30 minutes.
“I’m getting the idea that some of the students that want to speak up are being told to stay silent and that the few who do speak up are being ignored, so others are not speaking up because they feel like there’s no point,” senior Gwen Turner said.
Senior Lanee Higgins suggested something different. “At Hood we have a communication problem that extends far beyond the flawed email system,” Senior Lanee Higgins said. “Students spread things through social media but all of the students who attended the forum last night were not as vocal when addressed with the issue.”
Junior Mary Hickman said that she is apathetic about the changes. “No Friday classes is unheard of,” she said. “I think that people are getting upset over this because we’ve gotten a bit spoiled over Hood’s old scheduling policies.”
The core requirements also recently adjusted, eliminating the upper level course requirements. This is a change that the majority students and the administration agree on. The Provost said at the forum: “We have made several I think important steps forward that will benefit students. The core changes are one and the schedule change is another. And what was the center of both of those changes was to expedite student’s ability to be successful in college and move through the program. “
The new schedule as well as the summer schedule will be released two weeks before Advising Day on April 4.
Watch the full video of Monday’s forum here.