Archive for December, 2010


Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Past the woods

                              And the mounting snow

                                                                                On the land that covers Pennsylvania

Past drivers who stop and go

                                                          Who cannot drive

                                                                                              In the awful “Garden State”

I dream of buildings

                                         And Lady Liberty

                                                                             I dream of New York

                                         My home

And though they may connect

                                                              As smaller parts of the United States

They are separated by ideals and dreams

                                                                                    Like oceans that separate

The United States

                                     From Europe

New York

                     to P.A.

Never the same

My Final Paper and thoughts

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Taking on Queens College

            When the project was assigned to us I immediately knew what community I wanted to take on. Queens College is notorious for being problematic and inefficient for its students and, as I found out, for its professors. At first I had no idea where to start or who to talk to. Then Queens College dropped the bomb: CUNYfirst. This disaster helped me target the people I needed to talk to and gave me more material to fight the problems at Queens College. While during this semester I couldn’t fix all the problems, I was able to find loopholes, so to speak, to help students.

            I first wanted to take on the registrar’s office. As I had mentioned in my first topic proposal paper, I went to the registrar’s office to apply for in-state tuition. I had spoken one of the ladies on the phone. They gave me a list of everything I would need to qualify for in-state tuition. After I put a folder together I was ready to go, but apparently the registrar’s office had not been as prepared. I had gone in at least three times, spending about five dollars in total for parking, and each time I went they told me the supervisor wasn’t in so they couldn’t help me. I had to wait three weeks for one woman, the only woman in that entire office who could help me. Needless to say I was not happy and I left thinking “are any of these people qualified?” Desmond had complained that he and his parents were given false information about tuition and as a result lost the classes he had scheduled for. I had a similar issue, I was not notified about when my tuition was due so I had called the registrar’s office they said I had an extra day to pay tuition. After I paid my tuition I got a letter a week later saying my classes had been dropped. Aside from the poor attitude, the people at the registrar’s office were incompetent and had the wrong answers.

            Then there was the business with the advisors. I wasn’t happy that I had to go to two different advisors to get information on what I needed to graduate. I went to my advisor and with the checklist the English department gave me I plotted what classes I needed to fulfill my English requirements. Then I had to run to the academic advising center to make sure I was completing my LASARs and basic requirements. Coming from Kutztown University where our advisors had the tools to look at each student’s transcripts and information and all it took was one meeting and you knew what classes you needed to take and how long you had until you graduated. Queens College doesn’t have that system although there are advisors who would like to have the tools to access those kinds of information.

            I was only going to tackle the registrar’s office and the academic advising office but other factors affected my decision. First I was reminded about the problems with finals; some finals had been scheduled at the same time. Then mid semester emails were sent out about a new system: CUNYfirst. Suddenly students at Queens College couldn’t access things like open sections or our unofficial transcript, etc. We were told that this site would be the only way to access things like paying bills, registering for classes, checking credits, etc. How were we supposed to figure this new site out half way through the semester and then register for classes?

            I finally buckled down and wrote up a list of questions I wanted to ask and the people I wanted to ask. I noticed that some of the emails had been sent from the Executive Director, Jennifer Jarvis. I figured that she would have the most to talk about and at the very least would give some insight about CUNYfirst.

            When I sat down with her I was initially surprised at how kind and welcoming she was, not very QC of her. I explained the project and said that I had a few questions to ask, ready with my pen and paper. To my surprise she pulled out her own pad and paper and was taking notes! It became clear early in the interview that she was truly concerned and influenced by what I had to say. By the end not only did I get my questions answered, I was giving her suggestions that I thought would make campus better. The interview was a complete success because anything that could be done by one students and one Executive Director was accomplished. I would consider her not only a source of information; she was also a stepping stone to making QC tolerable. She had taken everything I had to say with great concern and assured me that if I had any more questions to go to her any time. If only other people were so generous, I wouldn’t complain half as much and I probably wouldn’t be doing this project.

            I also sat down with my advisor, Caroline Hong, who I’ve gone to in the past about my requirements for the English department. I remember the first time I went to her I had expected to get a list of classes I needed to take, not just for English, but for my entire degree. I was a little upset when I left because I couldn’t understand, or at least this was my first thought, why she hadn’t helped me. When I sat down with her to do the interview again I was welcomed with kindness and respect. It felt like I had walked into the bible or one of those Christian churches where they always looked delighted to see you, but I was at QC; my mind was blown! When I started asking her about the new system I was amused that she was almost as lost as the students. She told me that they had basically gotten the same workshop the students did. Now I didn’t go to the workshop because of my class and work schedule, but from what I understood it wasn’t exactly the Holy Grail. Then I asked her what abilities she had as an advisor, that’s when I was shocked and felt terrible. When she explained that the academic advisors were the only ones who could evaluate which classes students had taken and which they needed I got mad at myself for assuming that she had those tools. I could tell by her tone and her expressions that she had wanted to help the students just as much as we wanted to help.

            I also asked Professor Hong about the availability of classes, why some were available one semester but it could be gone by the next semester, and of course the size of classes. I had figured that it had something to do with how much professors were being paid because that’s the first thing students hear, and personally I completely understand. But she explained it wasn’t just the money. I had no idea that as a professor you had to attend conferences or be a part of committees. I thought about how hard it must be to find time and money to do that and teach classes, which she said was the last reason availability of classes are all over the place. I was clueless to how hard it was on professors and even apologized to her for being so single minded on my views of QC. She said that we as students had enough to worry about and she understood but that’s no excuse. Professors deserve a little more appreciation!

            With information from the Executive Director and from my advisor I wanted to get at least one more interview, with either the President of QC or the Provost. Unfortunately, and understandably, they were both too busy to answer any questions but I’m sure it was my timeframe that was the problem. I had wanted to ask the President why CUNY schools were so underfunded and if there were any guidelines or goals set out for us. I also wanted to ask who exactly the CUNY board was made up of and what their plans were for all CUNY school or how (if at all) they fought for the funding of CUNY schools. I was going to ask the Provost why finals had time conflicts when the classes themselves didn’t conflict and how the schedule was made up, among other questions that I had had for the Executive Director.

            Despite my inability to get all the interviews or even make change on campus, I developed a sort of help guide for students so they could survive in the meantime. My friend Maria who graduated in the spring suggested doing a DegreeAudit. The DegreeAudit has a lot of features like how to calculate a GPA and what grades you would have to achieve to get there, but the most important thing is by pressing the “Audit” button, any and all classes you need to take pop up. It separates them into field and explains which requirement you need to fill and lists the classes you can take to fill that requirement. This is only a part one of two series. You should know what your degree audit says and either write it down or print the information, this way when you sit down with the academic advisor you already know what you’re looking for and you can ask better/more important questions. They don’t get irritated with students who show the initiative to look up their information. I think the problem is that students don’t know it exists. I talked to three people in my classes to ask them if they had done a degree audit and they looked completely lost. When I explained it to them I got a million thank you’s. One girl came back to me a week later and told me she has just spoken to an academic advisor and now knew what classes she needed and when she would be graduating. I was glad to at least have helped one person.

            My evaluation of my project consists of a few things. I think my interviews were very successful but, had CUNYfirst popped up sooner and had I started my planning sooner, I could have gotten the interviews with the President and the Provost. Also I realized mid way through that I wouldn’t be able to change the system in one semester but was still disappointed that little could be done. Out of what I could not do, I think my “survival guide” is really helpful and if things are still hard on students by next semester I will find a way to pass it along. I can’t say my overall project was a success but I feel it was far from a failure and anyone who takes my advice will find that it is a great way to get around the bureaucracy at Queens College.

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