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.
Good Day! I hope you all are well. My name is Rajesh Sean Thackurdeen, a Sociology/ Anthropology major of the Class of 2011. And I am interested in being your Educational Policy Representative.
My time here at Swarthmore has particularly informed myself in the ways in which I see the strengths and deficiencies of a Swarthmore Education. My identity as a first-generation college student, as a student who has faced significant academic hardship during my career—due to lack of preparation and lack of support—and my trajectory to where I stand academically in the present, has informed my various views on what I see as great and I what I deem as insufficient. With Swarthmore’s fastidious commitment to diversity, must come its unwavering commitment to support. It is with this mindset that I wish to build and construct the role of the Educational Policy Representative on Student Council.
The concept of increasing support in the current economic climate may seem daunting, but there are changes that can be made without increase in monetary support—to an extent, the task especially charged to my role, if elected, will be to negotiate the ways in which we can be efficient with the resources we do possess. By the same token, we will push and stress the need and priority for various forms of academic support, and its need especially in time of budgetary distress. Support must not be amongst the first to be ignored during these times.
One particular example of a way in which we can be more efficient and creative is more awareness and coordination of faculty hiring. I attended lectures for a faculty position in my own department, adding a student’s voice to the hiring process, which is itself an important policy. It was great to be a part of the process, give my opinions and feel from their reception that they were valued and taken into consideration. However, in reflecting and learning after the selection was made, I have noticed a few simple fixes to the process that we cannot afford—in many ways—to overlook. The candidate was noted for their ability to fit within the department but the ways in which he/she would be able to fit into the larger educational institution were not given as much weight. It is only at the behest of students, wondering if new courses presented could count for an interdisciplinary minor that other departments were made aware of the faculty member’s new presence and the ways in which he/she could then fit into to their educational niches. In the future, candidates for hire must explicitly be considered among the ways they can not only fit in their department of hire/study but how they can fit into the larger fabric of Swarthmore’s faculty before a decision for hire can be made.
Another way in which faculty hiring can be improved is the inclusion of the Equal Opportunity Office in these decision making processes. Currently, the EOO, worked by Sharmaine Lamar, is underutilized and underrepresented in these important decisions that are made department wise. I would like to investigate the ways in which the EOO has historically functioned, how we can envision its use, and how it can best be utilized. Faculty diversity is of as much import as student diversity.
Student advising is another area that students should receive more support. For all students who fall through the cracks of the current advising system, we could foster their academic success by providing more opportunities for student feedback. Especially for bewildered freshman, we must educate students about the role and potential of student-advisor relationships, and emphasize the benefits of close relationships with faculty mentors. By working with SAMS, the deans, and new ways of gathering student feedback, I believe we can create an advising system that helps individuals from all experiences become more comfortable and empowered in all academic settings.
Another significant issue that works to facilitate and make cohesive collective diversity is the investigation of the possibility of a Bridge Program. Such a program would cater to admitted students who demonstrate and call for support in the areas of writing and reading before their official academic career commences. The Bridge Program would have been particularly useful for ESL students who face difficulties in their educational experience here at our institution. A program similar to the permutation currently called for existed in the 1970’s and was cut due to budgetary constraints. Re-investigating this possibility would be placed, along with the aforementioned issues, at the forefront of my agenda.
While the agenda presented here is reflective of feedback I have gathered during my three years at Swarthmore, I lay open to new issues that are presented, as well looking to find ones that are not heard. As your Educational Policy Representative I will work hard to leverage our collective experiences through my working relationship with the Deans, administration and staff, and my commitment to bettering this institution to create a more inviting and comfortable academic atmosphere.
Thank you— And Vote Rajesh Sean Thackurdeen for your Educational Policy Representative!