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Spring 2000

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Class Notes

 

 
 

News Briefs

More depth, less breadth with new course load
Commencement speakers announced
International Week events
Cyber stop & go
Big dig
Student bill of rights
Austria then and now


More depth, less breadth with new course load

In December Skidmore faculty voted to allow academic departments to “reconfigure”—that is, to redesign many three-credit courses into four-credit courses. Along with making such courses deeper and richer learning experiences, reconfiguration means that students will most often carry a load of four courses per semester, instead of the current five, and faculty members will typically teach five rather than six courses per year.

The deliberations involved a number of committees and working groups, but the plan has caused some controversy. Many students and faculty are concerned that reconfiguration will limit the options for exploring across disciplines and for pursuing double majors or minors—especially given the number of courses already needed to meet the all-college breadth-of-study requirements. Another issue is class size: with fewer courses on offer, some of them will be larger. Others point out that certain adjunct studies, such as music performance or laboratory work, just don’t fit the four-credit mold.

According to an informational handout from the registrar, only minimal increases in class size are expected. And the all-college requirements, which are currently under review, may entail fewer courses in the future. Moreover, the system is quite flexible, so that many departments will continue to teach some three-credit courses, and a range of one- and two-credit offerings will also be available. The aim is to foster more in-depth learning but not to cut off avenues for sampling and cross-disciplinary study.

Some departments are still determining how, and how much, reconfiguration is appropriate, while others spent this year largely reconfiguring their courses for next year. And this spring, students preregistering for fall courses already had quite a large menu of four-credit offerings to choose from.

Commencement speakers announced

Among the honorees on the agenda for Commencement 2000 were a federal judge, a choreographer, and an Indian-affairs leader.

The Hon. Guido Calabresi joined the faculty of Yale Law School in 1959, was named Sterling Professor of Law, and served as dean for nine years. In 1994 he was named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A native of Milan, Italy, he earned bachelor’s and law degrees from Yale and was a Rhodes Scholar.

In 1960 Trisha Brown became a leader in New York City’s “postmodern” dance movement. Since founding her own company in 1970, she has mounted eclectic, highly acclaimed productions in collaboration with leading innovators of music and visual art. She was the first woman to receive a MacArthur “genius grant” in choreography.

A member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, W. Richard West is director of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of the American Indian. As an attorney, he has represented Native American clients in a wide range of proceedings. He holds degrees from Redlands and Harvard and a J.D. from Stanford.

Full coverage of Commencement will appear in the summer Scope.

International Week events

Art, lectures, and information sessions highlighted a campus International Week celebration in February.

Organized by the International Programs Office, the event began with the Oscar-winning Italian film Life is Beautiful. Next, a lecture on “The WTO after Seattle: Lessons from Environmental Regimes” was given by Konrad Von Moltke, a senior fellow at both the World Wildlife Fund and the Institute on International Environmental Governance. His talk, sponsored by Skidmore’s joint initiative in environmental studies and international affairs, was followed by “Indigenous Peoples, Development, and Cultural Survival in the New Millennium,” presented by anthropologist Ian McIntosh, managing director of Cultural Survival Inc., which advocates for the cultural autonomy of indigenous peoples.

International Week also featured a study-abroad fair, showcasing the wide range of overseas study programs—from internships in England to women’s studies in China, from environmental work in Costa Rica to art history in France —that are available to Skidmore students. Another showcase focused on off-campus environmental studies and included students sharing their experiences of field work and classes abroad, as well as representatives from the Institute for Study Abroad, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and other programs.

Capping off the week was “International Influences,” an exhibition of student artworks inspired by their creators’ study-abroad experiences.

Cyber stop & go

What are they, day traders? OK, so students don’t actually gab on cell phones between classes, but they do tune in and wire up, thanks to public computers placed in busy hallways by the College’s Center for Information Technology Services.

The machines in Bolton Hall’s corridors sit on chest-high tables, ideal for walk-up service. Ditto for those in the bustling Case Center lobby—“our most popular stop,” according to CITS’s Leo Geoffrion. There are also a few machines among the lounge chairs and tables in the Dana atrium. And especially between classes, it seems there’s always somebody using the computers, most often to read and send e-mail. In Bolton, students sometimes wait in line to get their fix at one of the four keyboards.

Big dig

It’s not a pretty sight: two 450-foot-long, 12-inch-diameter steam pipes, enclosed in high chain-link fences and partly flanked by deeply gouged trenches, have been installed aboveground along the main walkway between Dana and Scribner Library running down between Tisch and Case Center. Gravel and bark-mulch pathways skirt the torn-up asphalt, and at one point a wooden stairway provides a crossover for pedestrians.

The bad news is that the pipes were needed as a bypass for the leaky underground heating network that supplies dorms and classrooms campuswide. (Skidmore’s “new campus,” after all, is now 35 years old.) The good news is spring: warm weather means that repair or replacement of the underground pipes can proceed.

Student bill of rights

A number of polls and debates this semester have focused on a “student bill of rights” being developed by the Student Government Association. According to the Students’ Rights and Freedoms Committee, students feel such a document is needed to protect them from administrative and judicial excesses on campus.

SGA Senate has pondered a bill of rights for some time, but the issue regained urgency when two students were suspended this winter. The pair’s misdeeds were not in doubt, but students felt the administrative board that adjudicated the case was stacked against the defendants.

Under the proposed bill of rights, accused students could opt to come before a hearing board with student representatives (currently, hearing boards without students can be convened when scheduling constraints, such as semester vacations, prevent student participation). Another provision would restrict searches of student rooms. And perhaps the most controversial clause would allow students to bring charges against faculty or administrators who violate the bill of rights.

Senate continues to debate and refine the provisions; should they be accepted by SGA, they would go to All College Council for rejection or ratification.

Austria then and now

Austrian elections that brought the right-wing Freedom Party into the national government got many Skidmoreans talking, from the lecture halls to the theater aisles. One response came from a “working group,” led by government professor Roy Ginsberg and other faculty. They drafted and collected signatures on a letter to Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, voicing their concern about “the rise to national power of a political party whose rhetoric and policy, in some areas, echo the Austria of the 1938-1945 period.” Adding historical and fictional context, the Theater Department mounted an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice that takes place in 1938 Vienna. The adaptation by theater professor Lary Opitz, brings the anti-Semitism themes of the original into the volatile world of Nazi imperialism just before World War II. Opitz says students in his production seminar explored Austrian history, the history of anti-Semitism, and contemporary Austrian politics. Opitz hoped the play would “provoke further discussion about Austria’s history and future.”
 


© 2000 Skidmore College