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 Bureaucratic Obstacles

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The Great Pumpkin Posted - 2007 January 17 : 18:01:43
The administration could do more to make St. Johnís one college on two campuses by relaxing the rules governing intercampus transfers. The way things currently stand, there are a number of bureaucratic hurdles that make such transfers difficult. Students must decide to transfer by the deadline in February, long before spring break and the croquet match, natural times for students to visit the other campus in order to make an informed decision. The administration strictly enforces this deadline, denying permission to transfer even if students apply only a day late. Students cannot transfer for a semester in order to sample life on the other campus; they must transfer for a full academic year. Midyear transfers are forbidden; exceptions are made only after a difficult appeals process. Students are not guaranteed that their transfer applications will be accepted even when they apply on time, as the school seeks to maintain parity in the number of students transferring in each direction. Sometimes friends who want to transfer together find that one has been granted transfer while the other has been denied. A student who applies to transfer and then subsequently withdraws his application can find himself compelled to choose between going ahead with the transfer or withdrawing from the college altogether, and if the college permits him to remain on his home campus, he must forfeit his 500 dollar deposit.

The collegeís adherence to its bureaucratic rules often defies common sense. The college will automatically deny the late applications of students who change their minds or are faced with new circumstances that would make a transfer more desirable while simultaneously turning down students on the other campus who applied on time. If the collegeís goal is truly to ensure that approximately equal numbers of students transfer in each direction, then it would make sense to grant the requests of the students on both campuses. These rules are designed to make administratorsí lives easier, but they donít serve the best interests of students, especially in a school of St. Johnís Collegeís small size. Administrators at other colleges have far more complex jobs as they have to deal with the housing and scheduling concerns of an on-campus student population that is constantly fluctuating due to multiple foreign study programs and variable periods of study at the college before graduation. (Some students, due to a combination of advanced placement courses, summer courses, and overloading their schedules, take less than four years to graduate. Other students, due to additional time needed to take all the classes they want, take more than four years to graduate. While some students at St. Johnís take time off or go part-time, St. Johnís Collegeís all-required curriculum ensures that the problems of its administration are far smaller than those at most colleges.) Many other colleges, desirous to please their students and to keep attrition rates low, go to great lengths to fulfill studentsí wishes, allowing students to freely add and drop classes weeks after the beginning of the semester as long as they are willing to make up the work they missed. Compare the difficulties administrations in other colleges face in assigning different-sized classrooms to competing departments when the final class size is not known for certain until weeks after the class has actually begun with the ease in organizing the schedules in a college with an all-required curriculum. When viewed in the context of how other colleges successfully deal with much more complicated problems, it is entirely unreasonable for the administration to require a nonrefundable 500 dollar deposit and over six monthís notice in order for a student to transfer to the other campus.

Itís not good policy for the administration to compel students to stay at one campus when the students prefer to study on the other campus. Sometimes students even have to remain on one campus precisely because they had a bad experience there. I know one student who transferred to Santa Fe, had a bad year, and was not allowed to transfer back to Annapolis as he received a poor don rag report. (Students who are not in good standing are not allowed to transfer.) I know another student who after being accepted for transfer to Santa Fe was hired for an unusual work opportunity in Annapolis. The administration refused to let him cancel his transfer, so he had to choose between going to Santa Fe and leaving St. Johnís in order to keep his job. He decided to go to Santa Fe but found that it wasnít the place for him. He dropped out a semester later and went to another college.

Some colleges have adopted a 4-1-4 schedule in which there are two slightly shorter than average semesters and a monthlong term in which students study one course intensely. Perhaps St. Johnís should adopt this schedule, modeling the extra term after the preceptorials. Students could take the monthlong class on either campus; in this way, they could have a taste of life on the other campus, and students on each campus would have more of a chance to get to know people who attend the other campus. This would go a long way toward truly making St. Johnís one college on two campuses.

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