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Capital Campaign

Letter to the Editor: participate in the capital campaign

in Letter to the Editor/Opinions by

This past week, Swarthmore College publicly launched the “Changing Lives, Changing the World,” an ambitious $450 million comprehensive capital campaign. This campaign purports to preserve, and promote, the college’s commitment to curricular diversity, social impact and, of course, inclusive community. A recent Philadelphia Business Journal outlines just how the large sum of money that the campaign aims to raise will be delegated to benefit Swatties. Among the results that the campaign is expected to have are an interdisciplinary academic building, increased financial aid support for incoming students, more resources in support of Swarthmore’s commitment to social impact and infrastructure renovation.  Yet, it would be a mistake to solely emphasize the monetary value of this campaign. For all intents and purposes, this campaign provides a meaningful opportunity for Swarthmore community members—current staff and students, alumni, and friends—to have a stake in the overall improvement of Swarthmore College. Surely financial contributions have to be made in support of this campaign, yet those contributing, especially young alumni, should see this campaign as an opportunity to contribute to a better, more enriching and more inclusive Swarthmore experiences for future Swatties.

While a student at Swarthmore, I benefitted from a full college experience. Both on and off campus, I participated in cultural groups, I was placed in meaningful summer internships and I participated in various extracurricular activities that enriched the education I received in the classroom. Yet, I recognize that what I now call my Swarthmore experience would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the generosity of members of the Swarthmore community—like the Kohlberg family, and others—that came before me. In that spirit, I think it is important that alumni, particularly recent alumni, support the “Changing Lives, Changing the World” campaign.

Recent alumni share a unique perspective of Swarthmore College. After all, we have graduated from Swarthmore and can acknowledge that our lives no longer revolve around an arboretum. Yet, we still share a kind of familiarity with Swarthmore which enables us to not fully feel disconnected from current students. Just as importantly, many of us can recall having concerns, holding conversations and participating in amphitheater convocations during which we wanted to build a more inclusive and nuanced community at Swarthmore. Many of us may even recall the frustration we felt towards “the administration,” whom we felt, at times, was not responding to our concerns, or worse, was part of what we perceived to be the problem. I think Swarthmore heard us, and through this campaign, we have an opportunity to help create the Swarthmore we wish we had when we were students.

For some, this campaign may elicit some concern. For instance, asking recent alumni to contribute financially may be regarded as an undue burden to recent graduates who are still transitioning into adult life. That transition, understandably, can be especially difficult for recent graduates with student loans to pay off, as well as other financial obligations. That said, recent alumni still have an obligation to future generations of Swatties. In one way or another, someone had our backs while at Swarthmore, and we have to pay it forward.

I am not assuming that this campaign is an all-encompassing solution to all the concerns that all Swarthmore students may have. I do believe, however, this campaign presents an opportunity for alumni to channel the energy, love, and frustration that we had, and many of us still have, towards Swarthmore to make sure future Swatties have everything they may need to reach their full potential during their time at Swarthmore. During the announcement of the campaign’s public launch, Political Science Professor and Executive Director of The Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, Ben Berger, framed the campaign in a way that I think is relevant to all Swarthmore community members, including alumni. “The product [of the campaign] is us,” Professor Berger said while speaking to a crowd of students, faculty and alumni. Further, the goal of the campaign, Professor Berger mentioned, is “everyone here.” He was right. There really is one beneficiary of this campaign—Swarthmore College. And we are all—students, alumni, faculty, parents, etc.—a part of Swarthmore College. Thus, we have a responsibility to contribute to its improvement so that future generations of Swatties may benefit from our involvement, and they can then pay it forward themselves.

Political science department hires two adjunct professors

in Around Campus/Around Higher Education/News by

Next year, the political science department will welcome two visiting professors to support its tenure-track staff while several professors go on leave and the college decreases teaching loads. The political science department, which has nine official professors handling around 100 prospective majors, will use the adjuncts to teach introductory and core courses. This strategy helps keep class sizes in check, and also frees up established professors to teach to their specialties.

“[The administration is] helping … by allowing us to bring in people to provide coverage as [others] draw down a course or go on leave during this transition period,” said Professor Carol Nackenoff.

The department’s transition to a four-course load coincides with the scheduled absences of several long-term professors, including Keith Reeves and Ayse Kaya. Although the college’s Strategic Plan, which first announced the drawdown in 2011, called for a corresponding increase in tenure-track positions, former Political Science Chair Cynthia Halpern voiced frustration in getting these job opportunities approved by the Council on Education Policy (CEP).

“We’ve had the application [for new tenure lines] in front of the CEP for years,” she said. “Every year for the last three years, we’ve needed two or three adjuncts to teach our basic courses.”

Although such use of adjunct professors is not unusual, Halpern does not believe that it is a valid substitute for hiring permanent staff. Contracts for adjunct professors run for one year only, which Halpern argues is not particularly conducive to building loyalty with students.

Nackenoff agreed that course majors typically want the chance to take higher-level classes with professors they can really get to know. In the short term, however, assigning adjunct professors to lower or intermediate level courses ensures a “better payoff” on both sides. She expects that for pragmatic reasons, the department will continue to rely on adjunct faculty for the next few years.

“We are short-staffed, and the transition to a four-course load is putting on some pressure,” she said, but she expressed appreciation for the administration’s support in facilitating the provision of extra staff, even on a temporary basis.

“It’s not always easy to find people who are willing to come in for a course or two, [but] we’ve really done well for next year. We have people with PhDs in hand and teaching experience,” she said.

Kathy Javian, a recent graduate of the doctoral program at Temple University, will join the department to lead two survey courses on American politics, as well as an intermediate elective on public opinion’s relationship with American political behavior, which is her area of expertise. She came to the attention of the political science department while working as a research assistant for Professor Rick Valelly.

Javian did her undergraduate work in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Looking back, she said that while she enjoyed learning about political theory, she wishes her own experience had focused more on what the “cutting edge” issues are in political science today, citing an understanding of how biology and environment affect political decision making as an example. Javian works mostly with quantitative data analysis, and has been teaching classes at Widener University in Chester and researching the evolution of American public opinion on gay rights with Valelly.

The department is also looking to hire an adjunct professor to focus on the politics of South Asia. A Swarthmore alumnus, whose name the department declined to release until his hire is official and who recently finished a doctorate at the University of California Berkeley was offered the position. He will teach one course on the politics of India and Pakistan and another on violence and development in South Asia.

Nackenoff pointed out that using temporary help can help the department to feature different specialties and accommodate more of the gaps in areas of study created when professors go on leave.

However, Halpern cautioned that while this strategy may be very effective in introductory courses, only the addition of new tenure lines can help to ease the pinch which staff shortages create in the facilitation of honors seminars. In large departments like Political Science, the desire to keep classes small means that only Honors upperclassmen are able to enroll in many popular seminars.

Halpern also argues that there is unfairness on both sides of this situation. Although the adjuncts will gain teaching experience, she said, their positions are ultimately temporary.

“It’s exploitation, frankly, of junior faculty,” she said. Still, Halpern said that the hiring of the adjuncts is “better than nothing.”

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