Dear Dr. Florizone,
Congratulations on your nomination to the presidency of Dalhousie. From what I read, the initiatives with which you debut your leadership are thoughtful; One Hundred Days of Listening made clear your intention to close the gaps between students, faculty and administration. This is certainly of interest to the student in me who has a difficult relation with formal education. My criticisms can be indelicate, but they must be understood in context of my own background; I’ve been to two universities, and the comparison easily favours Dal. That will not exempt it from my sharp tongue.
I first put forward a critique of formal education in general. There is a culture of academic constriction alive in large private schools, and one must admit that the inculcation of University of King’s College, Nova Scotia Technical School, and Nova Scotia Agricultural College on top of old and vast Dalhousie institutions, traditions, and relations all make Dalhousie University a large and unwieldy business to run. Thinning out the bottle necks sounds like a much easier process than it actually is to implement, but I do not feel impertinent in saying that there is a strong consequentialist argument to exercise the adage “a stitch in time saves nine.”
My personal experience in planning a degree programme is not complimentary of aspects of the academic regulations present in the Dal structure. Though every member of the administration (with whom I had extensive contact) were polite and helpful, I could not help notice the jammed lines of communication. I understand the summer months are tough on business schedules, but a waiver for a class for which I was suggested to apply by an admissions committee was delayed repeatedly over the course of nine weeks, during which I navigated the labyrinth of contingencies and anxiety that resulted from my courses in limbo. I was approved less than seven days before classes began, and it took two weeks and three admin visits to finish the process so that my prof could add me to the course list. In speaking with classmates, it seems I am not alone in feeling that even simple course transactions become complicated quickly.
I put forward a suggestion that seeks to uncomplicate the structure of class registration and degree programme requirements. Complications of the modern world and high incidence of retraining constantly forces students to regard the determination of their career as a high stakes game of Russian roulette. Each degree programme has its own set of classes and requirements; the combinations that create various degrees are confusing and difficult to administer, resulting in frustration for both students and administration. I am uncomfortable with the notion that rules are all founded logically, for their constant revision without simplification creates a tangle of policy that impacts the student/customer experience.
Please consider implementing a horrifyingly simple method: credit equivalency. I contend that a student with twenty or more credits should be able to interview for graduation, with an opportunity to engage with what their education means. A portfolio system is subjective and difficult to standardize, but society already faces the inflation of individuals with formal degrees to the point where many working adults regard their degree as peripheral to their vocation.
Empowering students begins by reducing needless administration. I believe this kind of change can be put forward for discussion at Board of Governors meetings, and that it must be phrased as an innovative project to attract students and boost the cultural happiness of Dalhousie. The schools that exist under the Dal umbrella have the potential to add unique synergy and personal flavour to degrees obtained by students, thus marketing the Dalhousie brand by positive word of mouth and professional respect garnered by the impressive academic community that creates Dalhousie’s reputation for inspired innovation.