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.
Dear Swarthmore Students,
Thank you for reading this. My name is Rachel Stein, and I am hoping that you will grant me the privilege of being your educational policy representative.
I am a sophomore from suburban Chicago. But far more importantly to you, if elected, I am eager and able to make this position a top priority. Besides being a SAM, I am currently not involved in clubs or sports. Therefore, I have the time to commit to this position, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to do so. I would like to work on your behalf to make Swarthmore more student-oriented and “user friendly”.
Despite my class year, I think that I am well qualified for this position. I have been fortunate enough to grow up with professors for parents, uncles, and a grandfather. I spent days off of school in the back of my parents’ classes, and Friday night dinners with university faculty, visiting speakers, and graduate students. From these experiences, I gained not only a great deal of knowledge about higher education around the world from the perspectives of faculty and administrators, but also a fascination with educational policies. And in addition to watching, I was lucky enough to work with the new principal of the Sunday school where I taught for two years, to create and modify their policies.
As I sat down to write this, the following reforms came to mind. These are far from the only changes that I would push for. More important than what I think should be addressed, I want to push for the educational changes that you, the student body, want to see. Rather than specific topics, I hope that the suggestions below will illustrate the thoughtful approach that I wish to bring to the position.
• Online teacher evaluations – All courses should have evaluations available online from previous semesters and years. This would be useful to all of us and would not be hard to do. For example, before Northwestern University’s returning students can register for classes they must complete their teacher evaluations on their equivalent of My Swarthmore. There, students can also easily access every single evaluation, for every instructor. My vague understanding is that we, as Swarthmore students, could technically request to see teacher evaluations, but let’s be realistic, how many people would want to do that, let alone for every class that they are considering? I agree that student evaluations can be misleading, unfair, and that nothing will replace you attending the class. However as a SAM, I find that it is not uncommon, especially for freshmen, to look at Rate My Professor. That site is biased by a few students with strong feelings, and so is far less accurate than reviews accumulated from many students. Further, the evaluations tell about many aspects of the course and instructor –teaching style, accessibility during office hours etc.- helping students consider the courses in the context of their own learning styles.
• Writing a thesis should count as a W course in all disciplines – First, I would like to make it clear that I have no personal stake in this; I took four W courses my freshman year. I am also aware that several thesis/capstone classes are W courses, however many, such as philosophy, education, and political science, are not. I realize too that making capstone classes W courses may encourage some students to put off fulfilling the requirement. However, writing a thesis encapsulates the heart of what a W course is intended to be, namely focusing on the process of writing and revision. Many students’ theses will be used to judge them in applying to graduate schools or jobs, so they have strong encouragement to make their theses the best they can be. Therefore, it seems foolish to have them divert some of their scarce time and energy to take a class that they often have no interest in and put in as little effort as possible. It is also not fair to the W class and its professor to have an unwilling and disinterested student.
I am hoping that you will vote for me because, as you read this, you gained a sense that I am genuinely invested in learning about and trying to improve Swarthmore’s educational policies.
But even if you decide not to vote for me, I hope that you will consider my proposals. Whether or not I am elected, I would love to hear your thoughts about what I said and more. For a college underclassman, I have a unique perspective on academia, but I am not foolish enough to think that I know all.
Thank you very much for reading this. I know how busy Swatties are, and really appreciate you taking the time.
Rachel Stein ‘15
This StuCo special election will decide the position of Educational Policy Representative. The election will run from 12:00 AM Wednesday morning until 9:00 PM Thursday night on Moodle.