This week, a new Facebook group has drawn 168 students: “Save [the Certificate in International Development] and Professor Wagner from the SFS Deans.”
This July, Raj Desai will replace the certificate in international development program’s popular director and founder, Maria Luise Wagner. Many students in the School of Foreign Service were disappointed by the news, and rightly so. This decision is just the latest, and perhaps most egregious, example of SFS administrators making substantive decisions regarding the IDEV program without feeling the need to explain their actions to the students actually enrolled in the program.
IDEV boasts one of the highest enrollments of any certificate program at Georgetown. Despite this, many students are claiming that the SFS has long shown negligible support for IDEV over the years. Most notably, it recently cut a significant amount of the program’s funding.
Some students are nervous that these changes signal the imminent demise of the popular certificate program. This is particularly concerning to SFS students who feel that there are already very few options for study within a school that boasts only seven major options and 15 certificate programs.
The students in the Facebook group are angry over the loss of a beloved leader. But more importantly, they are simply trying to figure out why the program is undergoing these seemingly illogical changes. To date, they have not received satisfying answers from the administration.
A similar uprising occurred during the last academic year when the Map of the Modern World course was undergoing a transitional phase, and many students were left wondering what had prompted the changes to a course that for many defines the SFS experience. Likewise, the decision last spring to make third-year Arabic courses intensive went widely unannounced, leaving many students across schools befuddled when registration for fall courses came around.
Now once again, an important shift is occurring, and students have been left in the dark to mull over what might happen next. The rumor mill is in full swing; possibilities range from the program being available exclusively to graduate students to the program becoming a major within the SFS. But whatever the case, many are asking questions, and are left attempting to verify the rumors that abound, to no avail.
Clearly SFS administrators should consider a more transparent approach during transitional phases. Students should not be continuously left in the dark. The longer students are denied explanations regarding funding cuts and program changes, the more displeasure they will continue to express, causing further irritability and disapproval of an administration that fundamentally exists to serve students.