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(March 7, 2002, Gazette)

There’s something weird going on

Jeffrey PardyThanks to a fairly recent move, under the authority of the Senate, the Academic Review Program (ARP) has been implemented to improve the quality of all universities in Canada. Its main objectives, basically stated, are to: a) Evaluate the quality, success, and role of the departments; b) Encourage academic planning, innovation, and improvement of the university; c) Identify opportunities for faculties; and d) Introduce MUN to the way programs and faculties are run across Canada.

Inside these general objectives is a glimmer of hope and the answer to a question I’ve been searching for since I got out of high school: this country, and more specifically this university, does actually care about its students.

I’m not sure what you heard when you came out of high school, but I was told that no one would care that I exist when I got to university. Teachers would have better things to do than help me succeed, you turn into a number instead of a name, and there’s a good chance you’ll fail out if you don’t dedicate your entire existence to your studies. While it is true that university has been much harder than high school, it hasn’t exactly been the cryptic pit of hell I was warned about. However, I have lost a lot of faith in the system since I got here. The rec fee fiasco, the action rally of this year and the residual bitterness from the faculty strike still linger in my mind. However, this program proves there is hope.

It has been recognized that students have a say in our education. The university is asking questions like, should we be teaching students just to get a job, or is it more important to create individuals? Do students know about employment opportunities? Do they think they’re wasting their time here? I always wondered if the university asked itself these kinds of questions.

The program introduces an interesting new hope for frustrated students sick of taking courses they don’t want to take. It shows us that the university should be able to improve upon what it does. It’s not here just to take our money and give us a piece of paper. Though this review only takes place every seven years, it does a fairly extensive examination of MUN’s teaching faculties. A group of four professors, two from outside of the university and two from a different faculty inside the university, go through a process of thorough review of the selected faculty and submit a report, which examines the strengths and weaknesses of the department. Students’ input is encouraged in the writing of this report, and students should be notified of meetings during which they can discuss what changes should take place. There has to be student input in the review process. The whole process can be broken down into three parts: self study, review, and follow up.

I may be the only one who is really relieved by the fact that this program exists, but it should help raise the academic standards and quality of this university. Almost every aspect of our academic programs is being reviewed. Teachers, resources, student enrollment and interest, almost anything you can name. Does this sound like the actions of an institution that doesn’t care about its students to you?

I’m not sure how far reaching these changes go. From the looks of the report, every discipline will be looked at in time. The best thing to do is ask one of your professors. Hell, ask them if you can get involved in the process if you really care about your education. It’s your future after all. Do you just want to sit there while some else decides what you should be doing with it?