Column: Four-years should be optional, not standard

By Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

I woke up Wednesday morning not really knowing what I would write about for my last column of the semester. I grabbed a cup of coffee and logged on to Boston.com, like I do every morning, to catch up on news. That’s when I came across this:’ ‘Northeastern plans on adjusting its structure to become a 4 year school.’ Thanks, Northeastern. Thanks for making my job as a columnist easy.
Now I know this is not the first time we’ve heard about this plan. President Joseph Aoun and Co. have made it clear to us that they want to move in a four-year school direction. But why, Joe? Why do you want to make Northeastern just another cookie cutter university?
Under this new plan, the administration wants students to take online courses and fit in two co-ops, rather than the typical three, so students can graduate in four years. OK, so one thing at a time.
Co-op is Northeastern’s signature program. It’s what we’re known for. It’s what has made this university such a selective institution that attracts high-caliber students. Especially now, with international co-ops soaring, it seems irresponsible to make any changes. International co-op seems amazing; I regret not doing one. A good friend of mine is now in Beijing on her third co-op (she did her second in Singapore). Would she have had this opportunity if she were in a four-year track? Probably not. Why change the one thing that sets us apart? In my eyes, co-op seems to be working just fine.
The way things are now, students are by no means required to do three co-ops. From what I have been told, the College of Business Administration requires two co-ops from its students and recommends they do three, but no one’s putting a gun to their head. This is a choice students always have, and it’s one we should be able to keep. I personally did two great co-ops, and am graduating in five years. I could have easily finished earlier, but I chose to take a couple of summer semesters off. Why should I not be given this option?
According to the story in The Boston Globe, the five-year program will remain an option. If Northeastern loses its reputation of a five-year school, though, then no one will be motivated to stick around for five. In the article, President Aoun is quoted saying that he predicts that within three years, the majority at Northeastern will be graduating in four years.
The change will ‘move fast, very fast,” Aoun is quoted in the story. ‘In many ways, these things are viral. It’ll spread like wildfire.”
Hold up. Comparing major structural changes to wildfires strikes me as odd. Has this change really been thought out well enough to encourage this hastiness?
Also, I don’t know how I feel about this upcoming online courses plan. The reason I loved being here for five years is because of all the great professors I’ve had ‘- especially in the School of Journalism. While I understand some material can be taught online, it’s my opinion that students are being robbed of the complete experience. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think you can learn the same from a computer that you can from an actual live instructor.
Northeastern seems to be full of changes lately. Restructuring the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Criminal Justice, cutting the football program, and now this. All I can say is, TGIG ‘- Thank God I’m Graduating.

– Mary Ann Georgantopoulos can be reached at comments@huntington-news.com.

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