The $40,000 Guinea Pig
by Nathan J. Lichtenstein | published Dec. 4th, 2013
I do not doubt for a moment that the semester system will work out for RIT in the long run; it might take a few years to stabilize. Unfortunately, current RIT students are not enrolled a few years from now. We are enrolled in the present and the likelihood is that by the time the semester system reaches a happy equilibrium, most current students will have graduated.
I entered RIT as a first year student during RIT’s last academic year on quarters. The academic environment I joined was well established and well understood by students and faculty alike. The quarter system almost embodied the personality of RIT; a little bit quirky and different from everyone else, but it worked. Now to be fair, I was told coming in that RIT was transitioning to semesters, but what did I know? The only academic system I had been exposed to prior to college was the traditional four “marking periods” of elementary, middle and high school. I was in no place to judge the semester system, plenty of other colleges use the system and it works just fine.
Monday, August 26 rolled around and the first semester began. At first I did not notice anything too different but as the weeks progressed I could tell professors and students were struggling. One morning, my professor walked into class and a student asked how he was doing. The professor simply responded that he hated semesters. The reason for the difficulties is definitely varied. It could be something as simple as a professor having to figure out how to lecture in a different time format, to students having to absorb two 10 week quarter classes in a new one 15 week semester class format.
Right now I feel like I’m attending a beta release of RIT. We are trying to upgrade the old for the new and all current members of our population are testing the semester system as it goes. In other words we’re paying $40,000 in tuition to be guinea pigs. I know that writing an article won’t bring the quarter system back; semesters are here to stay. But we as a student body can make a difference in the semester system as it is molded over the next few years.
A college is essentially a business where students are the customers. At the end of the day, the customer is always right, because if a customer is not happy, they’re going to take their business elsewhere. RIT administration cannot be clueless to how the student body feels. As an RIT student I feel frustrated, cheated and confused.
I feel frustrated because, quite frankly, I don’t think the system switch was necessary. On the semester conversion webpage, under the FAQ section, the first question is “why is RIT changing its calendar system?” Most of the answers given have to do with aligning RIT with other colleges and universities because they’re on the semester system. Well, RIT, “If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”
I feel cheated because I don’t think I’m getting the same quality of education I received last year. Quarter courses don’t fit perfectly into the semester mold and academic quality suffers. In my department, transitional courses have been thrown together to bridge the gap between quarter and semester classes. In my experience, these courses have been hastily compiled and there is absolutely no consistency between instructors.
Lastly, I feel confused because I really don’t know what my next two years at RIT will look like. How long will it take until I start to see some stability and consistency in my classes? It could be anywhere from next semester, to next year, to two years down the road. I just don’t know.
I’m a huge proponent of letting people in power know how you feel to try to make a difference. The more people that speak up, the more noise will be made. The more noise we make, the better the chance we have to make change happen quickly.
I’ve told you how I feel about semesters, now it’s your turn to tell us. Tweet @reportermag, #SemestersMakeMeFeel, with a few words on how you feel about semesters.