Students Discuss the College’s Future in the 2020 Planning Process

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Student Council and members of the planning committees hosted a large forum for discussion and brainstorming about how Swarthmore should invest its money from the Meaning of Swarthmore campaign.

planning-2020-01-resize.jpgThe meeting addressed students’ thoughts on the College’s future.

“This is basically a roadmap for the College,” said Student Council president Peter Gardner ’08 in a brief presentation at the beginning of the forum. He said that the Planning Steering Committee will be deciding where the College will be going in the next decade or two.

Gardner encouraged all students to contribute their ideas — any ideas — and discuss in order to have “as much sort of cross-pollination as possible,” he said.

Afterwards the room broke into clusters and students conversed with one another about their experiences at Swarthmore and their recommendations for change.

To sample a few topics: the lack of transparency in the financial aid process, problems with first-year seminars, and limited food options on and near the campus.

“This is basically a roadmap for the College.”– Peter Gardner ’08

“About the size,” Liana Katz ’10 said to another student, “there’s just a sort of point where the school can’t expand any more.” This brings up the issue of whether the school should buy more land, or construct new buildings.

It seemed, however, that most focused on discussions about academics and aspects of student life, such as departments, majors, and Essie Mae’s.

Student representatives from six of the Planning Groups (subcommittees of the Steering Committee) were present to offer their knowledge and gain a sense of what ideas students had to offer. The other two groups are composed of faculty and staff to address concerns of faculty and staff.

For example, Samuel Asarnow ’08, a member of the Academic Program committee, asked several students about their experiences with seminars and professors. In discussion some raised questions about the effectiveness and quality of discussion in first-year seminars.

“Freshmen seminars put much more pedagogical stress on the teacher,” Asarnow said, citing faculty member Tim Burke, who thinks often about pedagogy and publishes his thoughts in a blog. In response, one student suggested that only professors who sincerely want to devote their time and energy to first-year seminars teach these classes.

Asarnow commented that often Swarthmore students are far more critical about their education and their professors than those at other institutions, and that some older staff or faculty may comment that the College is doing rather well in comparison to other institutions where things such as academic advising do not even exist.

Student Council reassures that despite some skepticism, all student ideas will reach the Steering Committee. The written suggestions from this Planning forum will be typed up and likely available for students’ inspection next week.

In addition, copies of this document will be given to everyone on the Board of Managers and the committee chairs.

All members of the Swarthmore community are free to send ideas to the Planning Steering Committee on their webpage. Their page also contains information about the domains which each committee oversees, and the members of each committee.

Students may also email their thoughts and suggestions to Student Council at

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