This past Saturday an email was sent to students who have taken Introduction to Political Science announcing the new structure of the Class POL-295 – Democratization and Regime Change. The email announced that a “new innovative structure has been approved for the course.” This structure consists of opening the traditional semester schedule by requiring students to come back a week early for this class, starting on the 14th of January, rather than the 21st. This extra week will be equivalent “to a full-time endeavor” and consist of intensive reading and group discussion. To make up for this extra time the class will have fewer meeting times during the semester to open time for independent and group assignments utilizing what has been studied during this week.
Despite the promise this new structure has in improving our learning experiences it seems to not only having ignored several problems related to requiring students to be back early but also seems to operate under the assumption that students at Grinnell have a certain amount of temporal and financial flexibility. We are mainly concerned with the following issue arising from the untimely announcement:
-Because the structure of this class was announced less than a week ago some students who are dependent upon air-travel to reach Grinnell may already have booked their flight, assuming that they would not have to be back early, as there had been no indicator that this is even a possibility. Depending on the airline and travel agency a change in flight might be free; however more often than not changing flights can cost several hundred dollars.
-Finding transportation from the airport to the campus will not only be more difficult, because almost nobody else will be back on campus but also possibly exceed the 30 dollars normally paid for the shuttle back to Campus.
-Some students have already made plans regarding winter break employment. Even in the case of on-campus employment, they will most likely not be able to work as this class is equivalent “to a full-time endeavor.”
-Other winter break plans may already have been made regarding travel, visiting relatives or even doctor appointments.
We are excited about Grinnell’s effort to strive for learning environments different from other colleges and improving our experiences as students. These particular changes however were announced at a point in time so late that it can impact already existing plans. Moreover, innovations should not put a burden on students who may not necessarily have the flexibility to accommodate this new structure. Because of the untimely manner that the change in course structure was announced, it is now for the college to work with us to find solutions to our problems, which in some cases fortunately has already happened. But moreover, it should be ensured that in the future students are given a little more than a 2-month warning. Furthermore, because the change in structure was announced so late, it may deter people from taking advantage of this opportunity, because they have already made plans. While there are other course options available it should go without saying that individual (financial) circumstances should not be the basis for course selection, especially if this change has been unprecedented.
Carolin Scholz ’13
Sophie Lobanov-Rostovsky ’13
Kristina Duric ’13
Meriem Trabelsi ’13
Chris Lee ’15
Benji Zeledon ’14
Martin Campbell ’14
Farida El Habashy ’15