Thursday, October 22, 2009

Graduate Uprising 10/20

While many of you may be asking yourselves: "What uprising? There was nothing on the news!" I am referring to a particular incident that occurred in one of my graduate school lectures this past Tuesday. Essentially, the Dean came to our class to get an understanding of how the students were responding to the new redesigned program. While in the back of his mind he probably thought, I'll go in and say my typical speech "We have a plan!" and then people will nod, and respond with neutral remarks about how the courses are "going okay." (for a detailed recap of what happened visit Chasing the Muse) HOWEVER, what resulted was far from a lukewarm-rebuttal. The students had become very distraught over the way the courses were being taught, their size and the sheer lack of interrelatedness to what THEY wanted to learn. The Dean was, to sum it up, verbally destroyed. I don't think he was expected such flak from the students over the new program. The uprising had begun.

People should be able to voice their opinions on a topic that has direct ramifications to their lives. This particular incident helped to make the problems, that probably are not visible to the faculty because they are too engrossed in their work, more explicit. The problem I think harps back to one of the problems someone voiced at the Dean's lecture: alienation. In a graduate program you would think intimacy with your faculty and students would be a keystone. When I completed my previous graduate degree I knew my professors VERY well, and we would even have the occasional get-together-for-drinks social event. But most importantly, we as graduate students were asked our opinions on what the curriculum should be for future graduate students. The opportunity to influence what courses were relevant and how others could be improved. I am proud to say that WE actually had an effect on what was decided. One of the courses that we felt was redundant was cut and the program was extended, as we requested, to allow for more research. What I am trying to get at here is that I never felt alienated there. In this program, I agree with the people that said they felt alienated. Since the Dean's address was the only time students had been able to voice their opinion, many tempers flared and criticism of all sorts came out. But, what can you expect? People did not feel they had any say in what was happening to them. When people feel powerless in situations that deeply affect their lives, it is not a healthy environment.

I am not sure if students were consulted about the changes that occurred with the program prior to this year, but I think if anymore changes are to happen it is Absolutely necessary! We may all have various programs with how the courses are taught, the overlap, and the content, but a sense of community that includes the faculty is a must in a graduate situation. Without it, we may as well be sheep herded by the shepherd.

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