SGA encourages university to improve summer options

The Student Government Association (SGA) is calling for improved summer courses in response to recent proposed changes that would restrict students from taking classes at other universities.

Legislation introduced last Thursday cites the “meagerness” of summer course offerings, and states students go elsewhere to take summer courses because “course offerings in many of the university’s programs for the summer semesters are inadequate in quantity, variety and quality.”

The SGA’s action follows the October proposal made by the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee that would require students to take all their classes at Northeastern, except in specially- approved cases like study abroad programs. This would limit students who take required summer courses at state universities either to save money or graduate on time.

SGA Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael DeRamo said although he understands why Northeastern wants to require students to complete all their courses at the university, summer courses must be improved before such a requirement can take place.

“We understand that the Northeastern degree is getting very valuable,” DeRamo said. “But we also understand why that can’t happen yet.”

Professor Stuart Peterfreund, a member of faculty senate and the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, said students may save money by taking courses elsewhere, but he feels it is necessary for Northeastern to move toward requiring students to take all courses at the university.

“I am certainly sympathetic,” he said, “but by the same token I believe it is educationally sound to require students to take their work at Northeastern.”

Peterfreund, however, said the faculty senate already understands that before such a requirement is put in place, summer courses must be improved.

He said summer courses must be expanded both in quantity and the number taught by tenured and tenure-track professors, a particular problem in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The simplest thing is to commit money to doing this,” Peterfreund said. “Obviously, something has to change. Money for summer teaching must be budgeted.”

Although he would not say if money will be budgeted next year for improvements in summer courses, he said there is a “universal acknowledgement” that the problem exists.

“Everybody knows it needs to be fixed,” Peterfreund said.

Improving summer courses will be a difficult task, he said, because each college has handled the situation differently, especially since semester conversion.

Professor Stephen McKnight, also on the faculty senate, said the College of Engineering is “probably a little better off” with summer courses, with nearly 70 percent of summer courses in computer and electrical engineering taught by either tenured or tenure-track professors. In the College of Arts and Sciences, that percentage is much lower, he said.

McKnight said summer courses must be improved to make sure students learn the same amount in the summer as they do in their fall or spring courses.

“My sense is that with some care in designing a curriculum you can deal with the peculiar properties of the summer fairly well,” he said. “It’s not going to work if the summer course is taught by a part-time person and the fall course is taught by a professor who doesn’t know the summer class experience.”

Arthur O’Connor, a senior computer science major who came to Northeastern under the quarter system, said he has seen the quality of his summer classes decline since semester conversion.

“The first year I took summer class they had a lot of classes for my major. The second time I only got to take two classes for my major. Now I’ve just stopped taking summer classes because there is such a poor class selection,” O’Connor said.

Joe Canadas, also a senior computer science major, said the lack of summer options has made him take courses he never would have chosen otherwise.

“I ended up having to take classes with teachers I swore I would never take a course with again,” Canadas said.

DeRamo said SGA would continue to monitor the situation, and said he hopes students will see significant changes to summer course offerings “in a year or two.”

“We know it’s a need they recognize,” he said. “It’s something we’re thankful for.”

– News staff member Megan Jicha contributed to this report

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