Wednesday, March 25, 2009

OSU's Academic Calendar: Maybe It's Time To Listen To The Students

In 2006, changes in the political leanings of Ohio brought about the creation of a new office in state government, the office of the Chancellor of Education. Reflecting George W. Bush’s unpopularity, most voters were irked with the GOP and voted them out of office. This caused Ohio to move almost all of its elected officials into the Democrat column. In doing so, Ohio elected Gov. Ted Strickland to office. Strickland had promised his chief opponent in the primaries a nice juicy position if he dropped out, and Strickland always keeps his promises; thus, the new office of Chancellor of Education was created.

Eric D. Fingerhut, the man appointed to this shiny new position by Gov. Strickland, quickly set about trying to update the university system of Ohio. Making several sweeping changes, he wanted to put all of the state universities on one schedule, and one common academic requirement. This, arguably, would ease transitions between schools. However, instead of requiring this, Fingerhut let the schools decide to adopt it or not on their own.

Recently, the University Senate of The Ohio State University (OSU) decided that it was time to change the school's calendar from quarters to semesters; they cited Fingerhut's plan as a main reason for this switch. OSU, which has been running on quarters since 1922, will be moving over to semesters in 2012, ending a 90-year experiment that seemed to be working fine. The Senate, which vote 19-91 (20 abstained or were not there) in favor of the switch, presented a largely false case for making a change, and they did so in a non-parliamentary procedure.

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) at OSU staged several "meetings" in order to get students talking about the proposed change. While they claimed that many students showed up, there was no advance publicity for these events, and they were basically full of pro-switch people. Though this makes it appear as though the students support the change, they didn’t show up because nobody knew about it. Even I, a member of USG, had heard nothing of these meetings, and did not know that they had happened until after the fact. There was no publication of them in the newspapers, no emails, nothing. Thus, any input from these meetings is highly suspect.

Additionally, USG, which is supposed to represent the students at OSU, paid no attention to the comments made by the students on various websites, and even in the school's own newspaper. Only one USG senator, Tracee Huffman, decided to ask the students how they felt, and she voted the way they felt, against the proposal. Most students mentioned that they were against the change, and that they wanted it to be thought out. Others, myself included, wanted to see a full plan of action before a vote. USG ignored us all.

Furthermore, during the motion in the Senate to pass the change, several irregularities and outright lies occurred. The side presenting the motion claimed that Strickland would cut off funding. Wrong — Fingerhut made it clear that funding would not change, nor would the schools be affected by the Board of Regents. They then claimed that it would be easier on students transferring. Wrong — one of the main reasons people transfer to OSU is the quarter system, and there have been only a few problems in the history of the school with transfers. They then argued that it helps internships. Wrong — President Gee, who supports to change, stupidly said that OSU actually has more internships, and better ones, by percentage then any other school. Oh, and they magically had ballots printed out for when somebody called for a secret vote; that was definitely set up.

Though there was not one good reason to make the change presented, the University Senate made the change anyway.

Students all over OSU are unhappy with the change. They do not want a change. They think that OSU is running well as it is. Some, myself included, believe that the fact that no full plan was proposed is bad, and that it is only writing a blank check to the school. We all agree that the transition from quarters to semesters will harm all students, and that it needs a plan (there isn’t one yet). OSU students are not alone with this unhappiness, as the other quarter schools, which will be changing as well, have unhappy students.

The reason that we believe the change will be harmful is one simply based on reality; how can you change a system without affecting those using it? Switching from one system of credits to another, in the middle of a student’s education, cannot be done properly without harm. The only way to do this would be to phase it in, and double the number of classes for those years. This, of course, is not feasible. Additionally, there is no plan to look at, and thus use to limit the total harm. We want to see how OSU is planning on making a change, and what it will look like. Heck, they didn't even make a prospective calender before the vote. Most of us will be gone by the time this happens, but we are all concerned about how this will impact the future generations.

Furthermore, most of us, as future alumni, are concerned about the prestige of the university. OSU is characterized as one of the most prestigious universities in the country, and it is currently the largest main campus in America. Students transfer to OSU for many reasons, but one of those, according to the questionnaires, is the quarter system. Additionally, the faculty comes to OSU for similar reasons. As stated in a letter to the Columbus Dispatch, current educators are contemplating leaving the university, or they already have, due to this change. Clearly, both students and teachers come to OSU because of the quarter system. We want the best teachers and students to come to OSU, and we believe that a switch will prevent this from happening.

Not only are the students angry, but they are fighting back. At four of the schools currently planning to switch, there are student petitions going around. At several of the schools, including OSU, candidates for USG president and USG senate are running on platforms against the change. A Facebook group opposed to the change has sprung up. Over the weekend before exams, it gathered roughly 7% of the OSU student body, a huge feat. There are even plans for legal petitions, which would cause a statewide vote on the issue to stop it. The students are not taking this change sitting down, they are fighting for what they want.

While there are no current plans for organized protests, several students have talked about the idea of nonviolently protesting the change. They want to force the universities, and the politicians, to understand that they deserve to be listened to. Students want the right to be represented properly, to be consulted, and not to be lied to. Students want to be heard and respected, and they are willing to fight for what they deserve.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I heard about this change last night, and since then have been searching for the reasons for this change and its possible effects. I will be attending OSU this fall, and so the transition will occur during my fourth year. I am very concerned about how this may negatively affect my education. There doesn't seem to be any real plan in place, so I can't believe that this issue has already been voted on. It seems incredibly unfair the way that many members of the USG were not informed of the meeting, and seems like the people that support this change will do anything to force it on the rest of us. Since I am not yet a student, I'll just have to hope that the current students continue to fight against a potentially disastrous change at OSU.


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