Commentary: Consider the customers – ahem, students – first

I really shouldn’t have been surprised when I opened the e-mail last week informing me one of my two Summer 1 classes, Beat Reporting with Chuck Fountain, had been canceled.

After all, I’d heard the horror stories about summer classes for three years and things really did go too perfectly when I was able to sign up for the two classes, taught by outstanding professors, that would have completed my major’s requirements.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand classes sometimes are canceled for various reasons. However, at a major university that commands nearly $40,000 in tuition and other costs from each of its 14,000 students, budget restraints should never be the reason administration cites when explaining their logic for cutting classes to concerned students. Yet, when a fellow classmate and I contacted administrators to see if there was a possibility of having the class reinstated, that’s what we were told – Professor Fountain had already taught his required classes for the year and offering Beat Reporting meant having to request his salary from the Provost.

Just last night, however, we were contacted again and told Beat Reporting would be reinstated for the summer, just taught by a part-time faculty member. Apparently the department was able to receive the funding for the lesser salary.

While it’s nice to see student concerns do not fall on deaf ears, the news is still a little disheartening. Yes, the class opportunity once again exists, and my friend and I won’t be forced to sit through a summer learning the basics of public relations, but we know the offering is second-rate to what the journalism department people had originally planned. By no means is it their fault – we’ve found that their hands were truly tied and we appreciate their efforts even to bring the class back. However, shouldn’t the university’s aim be to offer the best possible courses taught by the most qualified faculty? It’s sad to think such offerings are dictated by a small discrepancy in salary.

In case some financially-minded administrators have forgotten, this university isn’t the only one operating on a budget. Thousands of students bury themselves in debt everyday to attend Northeastern, and it isn’t to watch one of the nine plasma screen televisions in Stetson West or look at immaculate landscaping. It’s for an education – for classes. When stripping down in a budget cut, classes and faculty should be the absolute last option.

This university is unique. Not only are we required to take classes during the summer, but thanks to a newly-passed faculty senate resolution, it is required that all of our credits – including summer classes – come from Northeastern. In this instance, all of the students signed up for Beat Reporting are upperclassmen; the number of classes we have left to take at this institution before graduation has dwindled down to single digits. While the class was ultimately revived, the prospect we nearly faced – taking classes just to knock off credit hours – is no longer an option and alternatives offered this summer, like Journalism 1 or 2, are first or second year classes we’ve all completed. Many of us have calculated what classes we would like to take, and when, up until our graduation, yet the options offered by the university do not cater to these plans. How is this fair to us, the paying customers?

Does the university even consider which students – including year and major – will be on campus during the summer? Or does it just depend on which professors haven’t taught their necessary number of classes for the academic year?

Perhaps, before implementing such a strict credit policy, Northeastern should research the makeup and needs of their summer student body and ensure the funds are available to provide a fair number of class options.

This business is, after all, ultimately about the quality of education and the students. If Northeastern truly wishes to vault into the Top 100, shouldn’t the educational needs of these students be met first and foremost?

A note to President Freeland’s successor: The first order of business should be resolving the summer class dilemma.

– Stephanie Peters is a middler journalism and English major and a member of The News staff.

Leave a Reply