This week, two student members of the college’s Council of Educational Policy held focus groups with members of the classes of 2015 and 2016 to discuss ways in which the general academic climate of Swarthmore could be improved.
The purpose of these focus groups, as explained in an email from Provost Tom Stephenson, was for students to help the CEP determine a set of guidelines to support its curricular decisions. The CEP is responsible for the long-term academic goals of the college, which are then often implemented by the Curriculum Committee.
Ben Goloff ’15 and Martin Mathay ’15, two of the student representatives on CEP, met with handfuls of students in three different focus groups throughout the week. Goloff explained that the intent behind these meetings was to give students the ability to voice their concerns regarding the academic climate of the college, and as a way for the CEP to hear those concerns through their student representatives.
In Goloff’s focus group, a diverse group of students all came to similar conclusions regarding the academic needs of the college. One of the first things to come up in the discussion was the need for some sort of diversity requirement on campus, which could either manifest itself as a new type of degree requirement, or as a series of diversity lectures that would be held during the Friday afternoon timeslot previously reserved for weekly Collection.
The students also articulated the desire for the creation of more academic departments on campus. They agreed that the Gender and Sexuality Studies and Black Studies programs both deserved tenured professors and true academic department status, instead of being offered simply as programs. Adding an entire Ethnic Studies department was also discussed, under which many different courses of study could be housed, similar to the current Modern Languages department. Students also expressed a desire for the creation of Christian and Judaic Studies programs, which would increase the number of religious studies programs on campus.
The focus group also expressed concerns regarding the paucity of academic resources and mentoring for both first-generation college students and for students from low-income households.
The issues discussed in the three focus groups will be brought before the CEP, where they will be considered as part of the planning process for the college’s long-term academic goals.