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Tired of being an English student

Department changes make it difficult for certain students to schedule classes to graduate on time.

Emily Nickles, Page Editor

I’m disappointed and I’m not the only one.  Frustrations, a bit of panic, and maybe some tears might be a part of the struggle for the English major upperclassmen in the next few years.

Let me explain: I came to TWU as a first-year in fall 2013. I was a hopeful English major, excited to take creative courses and read all the literary classics that were not available to me in high school. Before I had begun my upper-level courses, the English Department made the decision to offer three new tracks (literature, writing and education) for English majors. Students were given the opportunity to remain on the old track in order to be able to graduate on time.

However, the new plan has consequently eliminated the old degree plan by phasing out the former courses as professors are needed to teach the newly created ones. The specialized focus of this three-way degree plan was a good-natured idea, with the intention to offer options to students who want to focus on certain areas. But what about the rest of us who are “too far gone”?

Now a junior, amidst this unfortunate and messy overhaul of the English Department, I am left without many options and risk the possibility of graduating late. Part of this is due to me getting ill. In 2014, I contracted a recurring case of mononucleosis, which persisted for a year and a half before I was able to boot it. In order to lighten my load, I dropped my course load to 12 hours in the spring, but I was taking most of the core upper level English courses that I needed to graduate. I was forced to withdraw completely that semester, and coming back, I have found that I am in an even worse situation than before.

But this issue doesn’t apply just to me. I’ve heard of students having to work out a contract with a professor to create a course that they need or apply to get a certain course to count as one off of the old degree plan.  

So what’s the problem? The courses projected by the English Department to be offered this spring are not available through the Pioneer Portal. The information is on the course rotation sheet which is located on the Home Page of the English, Foreign Language, and Speech Department. The document is obviously outdated because most of the courses aren’t even being offered as marked. 

I feel that the English Department does not have enough full-time staff. The transition to the new tracks requires the creation of new courses that will count towards the three new degree plans. But the courses promised to be available from the old plan also require sufficient faculty members.   

Professors are compensating for the changes that are being made, and it’s not their fault. In fact, the entire department has approximately 35 adjuncts, who most likely teach at more than one campus. Compare this number to the 13 fulltime faculty members who are currently teaching courses. These professors do not all even belong to the English department or all teach at the undergraduate level. 

There has been no formal solution, but an implicit understanding that courses must be substituted with those loosely associated with the old degree plan. Instead of creating a guide or list of compatible courses between the old and new course rotations, students must make the effort to work it out with their advisor.   

I believe that the university should consider making an effort to hire more full time faculty members, and it’s not just the English Department that suffers from a lack of professors to teach courses. Before any changes had been made to this department, a plan should have been created to support and serve the students who still need to follow the old degree plan. I can’t help but wonder if had I not gotten sick, perhaps I wouldn’t be in this situation. I can only hope I can somehow amend the current course I have to face through negotiation with my department.

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