Canceled FSP frustrates students, angers profs

by Kelsey Blodget | 8/10/06 5:00am

The Committee on Off-Campus Activities canceled the government department's Spring term program in Washington, D.C., indefinitely, frustrating a number of rising juniors as their Dartmouth Plans are thrown into question.

On Jan. 10, the committee handed down the decision to end the program, which has been in place for over thirty years, but the Off-Campus Programs office continued to advertise the program according to participants until recently due to bureaucratic disorganization.

The COCA reviews each off-campus program every five years, and last year's COCA chair Doug Bolger decided that the government program in Washington did not warrant academic credit because of its large internship component.

"Since it is the Dartmouth College policy not to grant credit for internships, we said we can't reapprove [the program] as currently constituted and made suggestions for how they might change it," Bolger said.

The program director aided students in finding "as useful an internship as they could possibly obtain" and then also graded them on their "reports and understandings" of the experience, according to government professor Richard Winters, who led the program on multiple occasions. Students received three course credits for writing a daily journal, attending two evening seminars a week and participating in a research project in conjunction with their internship.

"In candor, students are exhausted at the end of the ten weeks," Winters said. He noted "that for all intents and purposes students have a full-time job" in addition to their academic duties.

Because the application for the fall government FSP to London has already passed, students planning to apply for the spring Washington program are left without recourse.

Meredith Gringer '08 said she called the Office of Off-Campus Programs in June to inquire about the spring program.

"They said applications were due in October [2006]," Gringer said. "I was planning on going on it so I'm kind of scrambling now to find something that's comparable. To find something that offers classes as well as an internship is really difficult."

Off-Campus Programs Executive Director John Tansey has been on vacation for the week and was unavailable for comment.

According to Winters, Bolger sent a letter on Jan. 10 to government professor Anne Sa'adah explaining that their purpose was not to "kill" the program, rather that the committee "would like to see it continue, but in a significantly altered format."

The government department appealed the decision, asking to continue the program for one year, but on March 12 Bolger sent another letter refusing to grant the request.

According to Winters, Bolger cited "insufficient facetime" between faculty members and students as a reason to not continue the program.

"It's dopey to send students to Washington, D.C., to be taught by faculty members," Winters said. "They can't reproduce being in an office where practical politics are employed."

Bolger said he had hoped that the government department would significantly alter the program in time to offer it for Spring term.

"It sounds like they've decided they don't feel they can make those changes in time for the program this year," Bolger said. "So they're choosing not to offer a program rather than revise the program and offer it. And that's completely their decision."

Winters said that he and government professor Ronald Shaiko, who has also led the program, "strongly disagree" with COCA's characterization of the program and oppose the committee's decision not to re-approve it.

"I find it hard to find a sliver of difference between not 're-approving a program' and 'canceling the program as the government department has run it for the last thirty years,'" Winters said.

Winters said he was "frankly in awe of some of the experiences the young men and women [on the program] have had."

"We don't have big scientific laboratories in political science. We have lots of geographically dispersed laboratories that are made up of offices and organizations," Winters said. "And if [students] want to see the science of politics in process, they've got to go there. And it's a very valuable experience."

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