Section: Opinion

Strict off-campus study requirements limit opportunities

A student’s plan to study off-campus in D.C. is deemed too “pre-professional” for Kenyon.

My efforts to study off-campus have stalled out. Again. Exactly this time last year, the Washington Semester Program in Journalism and New Media at American University caught my eye at the Off-Campus Study Fair. The program seemed like a perfect fit: I would have a part-time internship and attend classes at the same time. The conditions seemed perfect for a high-impact experience, which the College wants every student to have, according to the stated goals of the 2020 Plan, the College’s guide for future academic and extracurricular goals for its students.

The Center for Global Engagement (CGE) originally told me I would not receive any academic credit for this program. The College does not grant credit for “pre-professional programs” like journalism or engineering, due to our status as a liberal arts college. I was allowed to apply for other programs at the Washington Semester, just not the one in which I had the most interest, and which would be the most valuable to my future.

Marne Ausec, director of the Center for Global Engagement, offered me a loophole.  As an English major, if I wrote a proposal asking the English department to override the Registrar and grant credit, and the English department accepted my proposal, I might be able to go. I was really excited. I was sure if I just explained my situation to the right people, they would see how much this opportunity meant for my academic enrichment, not to mention my career after Kenyon. At first, the English department said yes, they would grant me some credit for the semester, but they still needed to check in with the Committee on Academic Standards (CAS).

After a semester-long wait, the CAS shifted my petition to study off-campus to the Curricular Policy Committee. William P. Rice Professor of English and Literature Jesse Matz, the chair of CAS, told me this movement occurred because the Registrar and the Committee on Academic Standards could not grant any credit for pre-professional classes taken off-campus under our current academic policy, even though the English department approved my petition to get credit. Sound complicated? I thought so.

Through this process, I’ve seen a part of the Kenyon academic scaffolding which seems shrouded in mystery. I didn’t even know these committees existed previously, let alone what they talk about or do, what kind of power they have, who sits on them or how often they meet. I still don’t have answers to many of those questions. If there is someone who has had a different experience with CAS and other bureaucracy, I encourage them to talk to me, but so far, it’s just been a confusing web of emails and meetings.

This boondoggle has taken a lot of time and energy — not just mine, but that of the people in the CGE, in CAS and in the English department. I’m grateful for everyone’s efforts on my behalf, but there has to be a better, more efficient way to put students at the wheel of their education, and find some more flexibility in College policy. This bureaucracy just does not seem to be efficient. If the answer was a hard no to my proposal, I would have liked to hear that answer long before this, so I could begin making other plans.

I still plan to study off-campus next semester, so the clock is ticking on hearing whether my petition has been accepted or not.  After a long, time-intensive process, I’m beginning to consider other options instead of the one I’m truly passionate about, because studying off-campus is a critical part of my Kenyon education.

Gabrielle Healy ’18 is an English major from Fairhaven, Mass. Contact her at healyg@kenyon.edu.

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