Cole Attends ASG For Student Feedback After Task Force Report Is Released – The Campus
Provost and Dean of College Ron Cole, 1987, was the guest speaker for the last Allegheny Student Government Assembly on Tuesday, December 7, although he listened more than spoke. Cole attended the meeting to receive student body feedback on the report of the Academic Curriculum Review Task Force, a team of faculty members tasked with reviewing Allegheny College’s academic programs and advising the President on where the college can best allocate resources.
“I know myself and a lot of the students were nervous about the release of this task force report,” said Senator Veronica Green, ’23. “I was really shocked – in a good way – by the report, and wanted to say that I really agree with some of the sustainability initiatives and the reconfiguration of Reis Hall into an interdisciplinary center. “
Green’s comments kicked off a night of constructive commentary, far from a more controversial one. meeting with Link and his cabinet on November 16 and one student demonstration against the working group on October 21. ASG Vice President Sophie Adams, ’22, clarified that Cole was there to listen in his introduction.
“He will be able to take comments,” Adams said. “It won’t be a casual question and answer; he didn’t write the report, so don’t attack him, please.
The task force report categorized some university programs into three mutually inclusive categories. The first category includes programs that require strategic investment: programs that have been identified by the working group as needing additional faculty members and resources in order to strengthen the program. The second group is that of programs that need to be reconfigured: it is recommended to divide these programs or adjust them in some way. The third category included programs with “challenges to sustainability”; the working group “(suggests) options for these programs to adapt to the changing university landscape, but the status quo is not sustainable”. A fourth category of “maintain” programs has been created for programs not included in the first three groups for which the report does not recommend action at this time.
The third category of programs facing sustainability challenges received the most attention throughout the night. For example, in the same comment where she noted her positive response to the report, Green highlighted the programs the report identified as “unsustainable.”
“The only thing that really worried me was the Energy and Society minor because it’s a fairly new program,” Green said. “I understand the reasoning because I read it, it’s just that, especially if we are going to question the sustainability of geology in the long term, that the Energy and Society minor has a little more leeway.”
In response, Cole reread what he got from Green’s comments.
“Sustaining (energy and society) keeps some of the interest in geology going and gives this program a chance to grow,” Cole said. “I hear that, and that’s the type of feedback or input that would help me right now. “
Senator Joe Leszcynski, ’25, also expressed his support for the Energy and Society program.
“I find it disheartening that energy and society is on the chopping block even though, as you noted, it’s kind of related to geology and environmental science and sustainability,” said Leszcynski.
Cole responded by reminding the organization that programs presenting challenges to their sustainability weren’t necessarily going to be eliminated immediately.
“I would ask a favor: those programs listed under ‘challenges to sustain’ – I don’t necessarily mean to equate that to a chopping block,” Cole said.
Geology was also supported. Senator Clarissa Miller, ’24, noted that the program still has many applications in environmental science.
“I came to this school for the environmental science program and found, by taking classes here, that for me geology was a more direct route to work with oil and gas companies that are working on. general problems of environmental science, ”Miller said. . “There are more options in the workplace, it’s a more specific major, and having both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science options in this department really shows the variety. that the department can offer. ”
Another program that received support was religious studies.
“I want to admit that I am part of a fairly small category of students in terms of the program that interests me,” said June Gromis, 25. “I would just like to make an appeal on this basis for religious studies as something that should be preserved in a meaningful way. Just because of the history of the college, especially as a Methodist institution, and I think a lot of the connections that religion makes in a social context is rooted in religious life, but also in an academic context.
However, the report notes that Religious Studies has struggled to attract and retain majors, specifically citing that the program has averaged just over two majors per year since 2016.
“Allegheny’s majors are having an impact for a number of reasons – in terms of people, because of the senior project required,” Cole said. “Maybe if it weren’t for the senior project, we’d give less weight to, say, major or minor labels and look more at the entries as a whole. “
A student, Piper Martinez, ’24, suggested that a program that retains the character of religious studies could be created in a more sustainable way.
“I would like to propose the idea that – if religious studies is not a major – potentially try to replace it with a major which can be supported by several different programs already in place, which has the same feel of religious studies”, Martinez said. . “Religious studies definitely introduces you to different thought processes and honestly every religious studies course I have taken has been the most difficult for me simply because it actually makes me think and challenge my views. , which I think is a very critical point of the goal of Allegheny College.
Even if a major or minor is removed from Allegheny’s curriculum, students currently registered in that program will still graduate through what Cole called “teaching.”
“I was careful to say that the students who self-declared in a particular program that we would work with to try and help with teaching,” Cole said.
While he did not guarantee a “teaching” option for undeclared students, Cole said there may be some opportunities for currently undeclared students to complete a program that is being reduced.
“Let’s work on an one-to-one basis for students who might fit into this category,” Cole said. “Maybe, no, we can’t do that. Or, there might be other avenues to support this student’s interest, or maybe there is a way to continue this major as a self-declared (major). It’s hard to say without the details, but I’m trying to give you an idea of the options that I hope are available.
Overall, Adams felt that the meeting went well, especially given previous assemblies in which the administration had attended.
“I’m really happy with the students – their composure was good,” Adams said. “I thought people respected each other, and we hung out really well together.”
Adams also acknowledged that the meeting was held on a relatively short notice, with ASG only announcing on that day via social media that Cole would be attending the meeting.
“(Director of Communications and Press Ryder Sullivan) just released the post late today,” Adams said. “Obviously we would like to give more notice; this is something that we have been working on with our Instagram to communicate more. It’s ours.
However, in a November 19 email to the campus community, Cole informed the campus community in advance that the task force would release the report on December 6. In that same email, he wrote that he would be attending the ASG General Meeting on December 7. Assembly.
After the meeting, during his weekly office hours at the Campus Center, Cole suggested that part of the reason the campus community struggles so hard with the program review is the psychological weight of adjusting the way. of which things are made.
“There is heartbreak with the loss,” Cole said. “If we stop doing something – anything – there’s a sense of loss around it. This is, psychologically, an important thing to recognize for me and for others.
Cole said that whenever a change happens, the people involved try to deny that the change is necessary and try to resist it, before accepting that the change is necessary and working with it.
“I believe we’ve been through denial, past some resistance, and we’re heading towards acceptance,” Cole said. “In this place, this is the space where I think Allegheny can make his best decisions which include a large contribution to move forward. We have to move forward in the best possible way. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be happy with the results, but it is the best possible way given the parameters we are currently working with.
AC Unite, the student group organized in opposition to the task force and planned program cuts, posted a petition on Change.org on the day the report was released. The petition calls, among other things, for “the preservation of all majors, minors and other degrees offered from the fall semester 2021”. No such comments were provided to the General Assembly and AC Unite did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
According to his presentation, Cole will use the comments from the General Assembly, along with the comments from the Faculty Council, to prepare an academic program and faculty staffing plan. This plan will be submitted to President Link in mid-January for review; Once Link reviews it, the plan will go to the board for review and final vote. Cole expects final plan to be presented to the college community in mid-February