Over the past year, the School of Foreign Service administration has made profound changes to the international development certificate program. The certificate, created by student demand and spearheaded by professor Maria Luise Wagner under Dean Robert Galluci, has become one of, if not the most popular certificate programs at Georgetown. Unfortunately, since the departure of Galluci, the certificate has suffered nothing but setbacks.
Last year, the administration decided to slash funding for the program. Additionally, the Dean’s Office refused to hire Zara Khan, an energetic and devoted program staffer, as a full-time employee. This decision left the management and coordination of over 80 certificate candidates under the supervision of the program’s director, Wagner. With the cuts came reduced opportunities and standards for undergraduate students; for instance, an internship in international development is no longer required for completion of the certificate.
The most recent blow to the certificate was the administration’s decision to dismiss Wagner as director. This decision completely baffled students, an unsurprising reaction given the complete lack of transparency and information surrounding the decision. Students were rightly outraged that the administration not only drastically altered this popular program, but also completely excluded them from the decision-making process.
After students began voicing their opposition to the administration’s decisions, SFS Dean Carol Lancaster submitted a letter to The Hoya attempting to justify changes to the program. In the letter, she explained that the decision was based on school policy to employ only tenured faculty as directors of certificate programs. However, a quick review of current directors indicates that this is not the case. There are a number of other programs not headed by tenured faculty that have seen their directors stay on after their initial contract expires.
Furthermore, there is unequivocal evidence that Wagner is exactly the kind of teacher that Georgetown students respect and admire for her outstanding intellect and character. In fact, she was just voted the School of Foreign Service’s professor of the year. Not once did the administration question her integrity, character or commitment to the program. It seems clear that the decision by the Dean’s Office to remove her was purely political.
Additionally, Lancaster’s argument, that changes to the IDEV certificate were made in order to strengthen it, is clearly contradicted by the administration’s actions. If the change in director were to strengthen the certificate, the Dean’s Office would not simultaneously be cutting funding and refusing to hire additional staff. Apart from the political reasons behind the dismissal, there is another motive for the deans’ actions: The establishment of a graduate center dedicated to international development.
It is doubtful that any undergraduate student would oppose the creation of such a center. The development of a successful graduate program can attract resources and staff that will benefit both graduate and undergraduate students. However, the Dean’s Office is pursuing its graduate goals at the expense of current undergraduate students. It should not be the case that the administration’s plans for expansion come to the detriment of tuition-paying undergraduate students.
What is especially egregious is the lack of transparency and openness between the administration and the students it claims to serve. In response to student opposition to the administration’s actions, the only public explanation we have received — Lancaster’s — was inadequate and misleading. As a response, students have submitted a petition to the Provost requesting a restoration of resources and of Wagner as director of the IDEV certificate.
Lastly, Georgetown’s aim of increasing graduate enrollment and expanding graduate programs is further evident in the university’s 2010 Campus Plan. Consequently, the recent actions by the administration should come as no surprise. Students should be appalled that the university has enough resources to fund this expansion plan but cannot even maintain funding for popular undergraduate programs.
The school has lost touch with its students and as tuition-paying undergraduates, it is our obligation to make sure the university is providing the necessary resources to support our education. For this reason, it is imperative that students attend the D.C. Zoning Adjustment Board hearing on April 14 to oppose Georgetown’s 2010 Campus Plan. By doing this, students can show the university that we will not see our education suffer due to lack of resources while the university pursues its expansion goals.
Thomas Zuzelo is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.