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A pandemic couldn’t keep Arcadia’s Media and Communication faculty and students away from building community within their department, which held its first student advisory board meeting in the fall.
The board consists of six faculty members and 16 Media and Communication students, all nominated by faculty. It was created to gauge how the department is doing overall and to engage in direct communication with students about the online semester.
- Rikki Rosenthal
“This is something we have wanted to do for a long time,” Department Chair Dr. Lisa Holderman told us. “You were all chosen because of your strong voices within the department and we hope this can be a sustainable, long-term commitment for all of you.”
The meeting was more of an open table discussion rather than following a set agenda. The majority of the meeting focused on responses to a preliminary survey, which prompted students to discuss what is and isn’t working in the department. The majority of concerns focused on student needs amid COVID-19.
The biggest concern presented by students was the lack of communication between faculty and students in an online setting. Students often felt left out of the decision-making loop and suggested that the department hold a variety of events to supplement the lack of engagement with students.
These events included a dedicated time in class for students to engage with each other and their professor in an organic way, something nearly impossible over Zoom. Some students expressed a desire for “rant sessions,” which would be conducted outside of the classroom, and allow students to engage with each other in a less organized manner, anonymously through a site like YellowDig.
Finally, the students recommended professional development events geared specifically toward finding success in the workplace as a media and communications graduate. This could potentially allow students to engage more with alumni, something the faculty have been working on.
Another hot button issue among students was the option for pass/fail for this semester. Since the semester is online and many students don’t necessarily have a dedicated space for academic work, are living in unhealthy home situations, or had to take on extra responsibilities, some are struggling more than they would in a traditional semester.
Many students have decided to take matters into their own hands and start a petition for the University to offer a pass/fail opt-in. Nearly 300 students have signed the petition launched on change.org earlier this month. A tactic similar to that of last semester, which implemented a student-created petition to convince the University to allow a pass/fail opt-in for up to two weeks after final grades were posted.
“It is likely they will change their minds—they want to hear your voice,” said Dr. Michael Dwyer, who encouraged students to reach out to the Provost and express their concerns. However, pass/fail is not the only concern students have.
Many students lack access to programs needed to succeed in their major, such as Adobe Suite, which isn’t always compatible with PC laptop systems. This lack of accessibility makes it difficult for students to get the most out of their more creative classes in the department. To compensate for this situation, the department has considered partially opening some of the labs next semester.
These supplemental learning experiences would allow computer labs to open with limited capacity, so that students can complete projects run on external programs like Adobe Suite. This would be offered two to three times a week and would require COVID-19 testing prior to participation.
However, these supplemental learning experiences are only beneficial to those students local to campus. The faculty did acknowledge that while it isn’t a perfect solution, it is certainly better than no access to campus resources at all. They made the point to be more understanding across the board about all technological hurdles in the department.
- Rikki Rosenthal
While the meeting did cover a few smaller topics—such as a location for a lounge for Media and Communications students to hang out when campus opens back up, and creating a Discord server for the Department to stay connected during the pandemic—the main takeaway from the final moments of the meeting revolved around the future of the Department.
The faculty inquired about other classes the department can offer, scheduling issues within Department courses, student recruitment, and maintaining a sustainable source of communication throughout the rest of the year. The meeting wrapped up with an open-table discussion on concerns for the Spring 2021 semester.
“It’s my last semester, I want to make sure I have all of the resources I need to finish my senior Capstone and enjoy my last few moments on campus, in any way I can,” said Hannah, a fourth-year student.
While the faculty didn’t always have answers, they ensured everyone that they will do whatever they can to get everyone back together safely.
“Ultimately, it’s out of our hands,” said Dr. Holderman. “But we hope to be able to see you all in person very soon.”