Update on Scholars Program

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By Ryan Semerad

The Scholars Program recently lost 75% of its budget, which was absorbed mainly by removing faculty stipends for sophomore projects.

These budget cuts were made in response to the 2008 economic downturn and the recession, which caused funds to be removed from the Scholars Program.

As a result, the Academic Affairs Council (AAC) began looking for possible ways to change the Scholars Program in the spring of 2008. According to the AAC’s meeting minutes, changes to the Scholars Program were discussed four separate times between March and June in 2008.

Despite this funding loss, a recent report created to present recommendations for changes to the Scholars Program has become the subject of debate.

The report, created by the Scholars Redesign Committee, has been met with mixed responses for two reasons.

One reason is that the report recommended the removal of the Scholars Program as a “short term proposal.”

The other reason is that the members of the Redesign committee believe that they were charged to find changes by the AAC while the administration, Dean Therese McCarty, and AAC Chair Christina Tonnesen-Friedman maintain that the Redesign Committee was not a program charged by the AAC.

The report’s opening section describes its mission and charge:

‘The Scholars program has two primary functions: it serves as a recruiting tool for the admissions office, and it allows participants opportunities to explore their academic interests in a deeper or broader way.

“Feedback from faculty, administrators and students suggests that while it is meeting the needs of the Admissions office, the current Scholars program is viewed by the majority of faculty and students as not sufficiently rigorous or broad. The AAC asked for changes to the Scholars program in 2007-08, but due to staffing changes, only minor changes have been made thus far. We have been encouraged by Deans McCarty and Bidoshi to completely revamp the program and find interesting ways to serve its functions.

‘Our task is to redesign the Scholars program during the Fall 2010 term.

‘The first report was not initiated by the AAC,” said Tonnesen-Friedman.

McCarty stated that the initial report was created by Maggie Tongue, the Director of the Scholars Program.

“The committee that reviewed the Scholars Program was appointed and charged by Maggie Tongue, in her capacity as Director of the Scholars Program,” said McCarty.

This seems to be reflected by the AAC’s minutes on March 29, 2010; however, the wording of the minutes is ambiguous.

Speaking with Professor Valerie Barr who was a member of the Scholars Redesign Committee, the problem seems less clear cut.

“We were not an ad hoc committee—we were a real, official entity,” said Barr.

In an e-mail, Barr wrote that “we certainly thought at the time that we [the Scholars Redesign Committee] were tasked to do this by the AAC, and that our report would be considered, as did happen, by the AAC.”

The AAC has created a new sub-council that will evaluate the Scholars Program using the Redesign Committee’s report as a resource.

The crucial difference between this new sub-council and the Redesign Committee is that the former has students evaluating the program alongside faculty and administration, while the latter involved no students.

EDIT 11/3/11 2:43 p.m.: The article originally read that the Scholar’s Program lost 10% of its budget since 2008. It has been corrected to show that in fact 75% of the budget was cut. Thanks to readers for alerting us to this error.

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