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Construction for new apartments causes move-in delays

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Students slated for early move-in to the new PPR apartments will have to wait an extra week to be given access to the new dorm.

Fifteen students were scheduled to move into new PPR on Saturday, August 19. Isaiah Thomas, Assistant Director of Residential Communities, said the new apartments are now scheduled to open on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Early arrival students who are approved and scheduled to arrive to campus before that day will live in temporary housing near the apartments until the 26th. We have already been communicating directly with those students affected,” Thomas said.  

Clare Perez ’19 was one of the students impacted by this change. Perez, who lives in Chicago, was contacted on Monday, Aug. 14 that she would be living in Palmer until new PPR is available. She found the news exasperating.

“They should have known which students/rooms were being moved into earlier, and focused on finishing those first. I don’t live near Swarthmore at all and therefore will have all my things with me on the early move-in date.  Further, they put me on the third floor of a building with no elevator, so I have to move all my things up … only to move them back down and across to another dorm one week later,” Perez said.

Shivani Chinappan ’19, another early move-in student, was concerned by the timing of the date change notice.

“I think it’s mainly just really inconvenient to have to move in two separate times, especially for people traveling far who had to make arrangements to move their things. More time to prepare would have been nice, [five] days before people move in is extremely short notice.”

Thomas says most of the remaining work is focused on the exterior and the terrace.

The bulk of the work on the interior of the apartments is complete.  Some of the furniture that will be in all individual apartment common area living room spaces is scheduled to be placed in mid-September. All bedroom/dining furniture will be in place when students move in,” she said.  

Although the apartments are slated for move-in on August 26, renovations to the buildings will continue well into the fall semester.

The pathways and exterior lighting, interior and exterior cleaning of windows, and renovations to the baseball field will continue for a couple of weeks. There may be final adjustments in individual suites which will be scheduled in advance with residents. All work in the building should be completed around October 1,” Thomas said. The Arboretum staff will also be planting green spaces as well as the roof terraces throughout the fall. Palmer, the building in which the affected students will be temporarily living, has also recently undergone renovations along with Pittenger.

Both Thomas and Susan Smythe of Facilities are optimistic about the new living situations.

We think students will be very pleased with how the building has turned out and we appreciate students’ patience as we put the finishing touches in place,” they said.

Regardless of how long the construction takes, it will be a significant presence for students living in or near new PPR. The Phoenix will continue to follow the ongoing renovations to the apartments as well as other structures on campus in our first issue. 

Editorial: We won’t be fake news

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Browsing the news and current events this past week, it was nearly impossible not to cringe at the many comments and actions made by our new president. In less than a week in office, he has managed to issue executive orders stopping federal dollars to organizations that offer abortion services and ordering a faster approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone Oil pipelines. He has tweeted comments that called for a further investigation of voter fraud and claimed National Security will have a “big day tomorrow … building that wall.” He has even made false claims, such as “millions of people voted illegally,” and was defended by Kellyanne Conway, his senior aide, as providing “alternative facts” rather than false information.

While cringe-worthy to many liberal students on campus, one could argue that most of these comments and actions are a matter of differing political views and, to conservatives, possibly even a preferred course of action; one could claim that students need to keep a more open-mind when it comes to these policies and not jump to conclusions about what the consequences may entail. Perhaps one could argue that Trump honestly believes he is spouting alternative facts, rather than false information.

Yet, the tendency of Donald Trump to condemn specific news outlets as “fake news” actually discourages this claim to keep an open-mind and prevents discussion. This continuously expressed view by Donald Trump directly ignores the views of those outside his political spectrum. Donald Trump continues to claim that most media outlets are “fake news” and even tweeted, “congratulations to Fox News for being number one in inauguration ratings. They were many times higher than fake news CNN.” He persistently congratulates Fox News, a traditionally conservative news outlet, yet condemns CNN, a news outlet that sometimes leans on the liberal side of the spectrum.

What Donald Trump fails to acknowledge is that accurate news represents multiple perspectives; it provides credibility to both sides of the argument, even if they don’t necessarily agree with all perspectives on an issue. Fox News is notorious for ignoring the liberal side of an argument, dismissing it as naive or just plain wrong. CNN is also guilty of this mindset at times and disregards some of the valid perspectives and concerns of the conservative side of an argument. Yet, just because outlets tend to take different angles on an issues does not mean that the one representing an individual’s views is right and that the one opposing their view is wrong. Rather, accurate news represents multiple perspectives and acknowledges that the arguments on each side of the spectrum are valid through providing reliable evidence and sources. Since news is inherently biased since it is written by a human being with their own thoughts and positions, this is as close to accurate news as can be achieved.

Finally, it is important to recognize that just because a news outlet reports a story from an angle does not mean that it is more biased or “fake.” Rather, as long as all views are acknowledged and represented, it is serving its job of presenting an issue and pursuing its intended message to get across to its readers.

Donald Trump’s metric that one article is “true” because it represents his view while another is “false” because it doesn’t represent his same view is particularly problematic. Neither view is “true” just because it represents the views of an individual. Just because Fox News tends to align more with Donald Trump’s conservative position does not mean that it is true and that CNN is lying whenever it argues against these conservative claims. Furthermore, the elitism that this can encourage, by leading people to claim that one view is made up of “stupid people” who are “lying” or “ignoring the facts,” further destroys any chance of discussion or compromise on various topics.

In the face of a federal government that does not seem interested in both exposing and listening to all sides of an argument, we at the Phoenix have an even greater mission to present real, accurate news that represents all student voices on campus. While we recognize that Swarthmore is often criticized for being “too liberal,” we believe it is more necessary than ever to reveal the diversity of views that exist on campus and in the real world. Even if some stories are presented with a particular angle, we commit to these stories acknowledging as many viewpoints as possible without ostracizing members of the community.

We cannot do it alone. In representing the community and all sides of a story, we need you, the Swarthmore community, to share your knowledge and voice with us. We need you to work with us to accurately represent a story with as much information as possible and to truly represent the concerns of the community. Whether it be through sharing your own voices in your own article or being willing to interview “on the record” to avoid censorship of issues happening on campus, we ask all of you to work with us in portraying accurate, effective news from which everyone can learn and benefit. With the misunderstandings and blast of the media by the federal government, it is more vital than ever that we work together to ensure our campus does not fall victim to these claims and that we continue to be a model for accuracy, collaboration, and compassion.

College aims to staff 5-4 change

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As part of its 2012 strategic planning initiative, the college announced a transition from professors teaching a three-two course load, three courses one semester and two the other to a two-two course load, having professors teach a total of four courses over the academic year. The college hopes the change will allow professors more time to work individually with students, and work more on their scholarship.  

Nathalie Anderson, professor of English literature, says teaching three courses in a semester leaves her little time for other endeavors.  

“It doesn’t matter what the courses are,” she said. “It’s exhausting.”

Anderon usually teaches three courses in the fall, but due to the new changes, she has had several fall semesters of only teaching two courses.

“It was like a ton of weight had been lifted off my shoulders,” said Anderson “Suddenly, it was so much easier to be able to make appointments to talk with students. It was so much easier to be able to read a student essay and see how it could be made more effective, just because there weren’t so many of them to fit into the time that was available. It is just remarkable what a difference it makes.”

The decreased course load also comes with an expectation that Professors will work more with individual students.

“Now as we move toward the four course load, there’s an assumption that it will be four courses ‘plus’: all of us do curricular and administrative things in addition to our class room teaching, and we’ve been doing that all along. In my case I mentor students in Directed Creative Writing Projects in poetry. Three of those projects in a semester is the equivalent of an extra uncredited class, and the new system will acknowledge that effort,” said Anderson.

Many larger universities already work with this teaching load because it allows professors to focus more on their academic careers outside of teaching. Swarthmore however sees the transition primarily as a way to increase professors connections with students and, secondarily, as a time-opener for faculty. The change will allow professors to do more independent research with students, something that the social science division has been trying to change.

“There’s a general feeling among the faculty that the college as a whole would like to move in some way towards a model, that’s very prevalent in the natural sciences,” said  Stephen O’Connell, professor of economics.

In the natural sciences there’s some expectation that many students will have a research opportunity either with faculty or off campus before they graduate.

“In the natural sciences, that is really built in, not as a guarantee, but as part of how faculty think about their curriculum and about their obligations in the summer. In the social sciences and humanities, there’s a realization that having some kind of a research opportunity with faculty is a great thing, when it can work.The resources for that have been expanding gradually, but I think there’s interest in thinking through how we can broaden those opportunities,” said O’Connell.

In order to make this goal a reality, the college is in the process of hiring 25 to 30 new professors to allow departments to decrease current professors course loads while still offering the same classes. Most of these positions will be tenure tracks, but the college is not sure if all positions will be tenure. So far the college has allocated 15 tenure positions and added 17 faculty positions total. They will continue to add tenure and faculty positions over the next several years.  According to provost Tom Stephenson, the first professors as part of this initiative were hired 2014-2015 academic year, and the last will arrive in 2020-2021.

The Council on Educational Policy  is in charge of recommending which departments get tenure tracks each year. The CEP receives requests for tenure lines each fall and makes recommendations about which departments should be allowed to either fill vacated tenure lines or hire for a new tenure position to the faculty in the spring. The final decision on tenure tracks is made by President Valerie Smith.

Once President Smith approves the tenure lines, which indicates available positions within a department, departments may then begin searching for employees to fill that spot. A tenure line is not approving an individual person’s tenure but instead approving a tenure position for the department

Stephenson says the CEP makes recommendations for tenure lines based on several criteria including: having a balanced curricula, sustainability of curriculum, the ability to offer the classes that appeal to students, stability of a program and the existing diversity of the faculty.

However, the four-course program is difficult to follow for some departments. Although the college plans to hire the necessary professors, the transition period has proved difficult and complicated for many departments.

One such department is the computer science department. Computer science offers one of the smallest numbers of tenure track positions, despite the growing class enrollment size. In order to accommodate the increase, the department has cut many upper-level seminars, meaning many computer science majors will not have a seminar experience in their major.

“Our department is already stressed under a five course load. We’ve had to cut first year seminars. We’ve cut all seminar courses from our offerings… I think our smallest [upper-level seminar] this semester has 25, and most have around 40 students,” said Tia Newhall, computer science chair. “So computer science students at Swarthmore don’t ever have a small class experience in their computer science courses, and I think that fundamentally changes the ways in which we can teach the course and the type of learning experience we can provide to students.”

Newhall worries that reducing the amount of classes available to students without expanding faculty numbers will mean that students will be at a disadvantage.

“Under a four course load, I think that’s going to get worse. There’s two options: either that gets worse, or fewer and fewer Swarthmore students get to take a CS course.”  

The department was awarded another tenure track job last year, but it has been unable to fill the position due to a national deficit of computer science Ph.Ds who are interested in teaching.

The engineering department has also struggled with the transition. Additionally they have it has to work with complications of an external accreditation process.

“We have an accredited program, so we have an external accreditation body that visits us. … They make sure that we have a program that is top quality and that can be accredited,” said Carr Everbach, chair of the engineering department.

In order to keep their standing in the professional engineering community the department has to keep up with certain community norms.

“We cannot simply chop courses out and still maintain an accredited program,” said Everbach. “So every time we’ve been asked by the college, ‘how are you going to go to four courses’, we’ve said we need additional faculty. We need to offer the program we have and just have people teach less often but still cover the courses with other faculty, but we have not been granted any additional faculty.”

According to Everbach, in order to have all professors teaching four courses, the engineering department would require two new full-time professors which have not been approved. In order to start the transition, the engineering department has had to cut courses like Engineering five, which was a .5 credit course for incoming freshman.  Some professors have also had to cut interdisciplinary courses they were teaching.  

More generally, the change has the capacity to effect interdisciplinary programs at the college. As professors begin to teach fewer classes during the academic year, they also have less time to teach courses outside of their department in interdisciplinary programs. There are currently no tenure tracks in non-departments. Until two years ago all tenure positions had to be in departments. Now the college is now allowing tenure positions in inter-disciplinary programs, The college has received requests from the environmental studies, black studies, and peace and conflict studies programs but has not yet approved one tenure track for interdisciplinary programs. Stephenson explained the lack of tenure positions.

“They just haven’t quite made it to the top of the priority list.”

He did say that President Smith has made it a priority of the college to improve the interdisciplinary programs, and that eventually these programs will be given tenure positions, it is just a question of when.


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