Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Bringing Georgetown Back to Intellectual Life

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In 2007, a report by the Committee on Intellectual Life painted a disheartening picture of academic life at Georgetown, replete with grade inflation and a general lack of intellectual vigor. A new report, published last week and authored by an ad hoc committee organized by University Provost James O’Donnell, takes the first tentative steps toward counteracting this perceived intellectual listlessness.

The report, “A Call to Action: Curriculum and Learning at Georgetown,” sets out a process by which the university may stimulate intellectual life on campus.

It lays out six issues of interest: introduction-heavy course loads, flexibility of curricula, inquiry- and research-based learning, interdisciplinary studies, self-directed learning and the “formational” student experience. The committee and O’Donnell hope that the report will spark conversation among students, faculty and administrators.

We commend the provost’s committee for beginning this important conversation; we urge the community to take a financially and academically pragmatic look at the suggestions outlined in the report. Though some of the committee’s suggestions are valuable and realistic, others are less practical and potentially counterproductive.

The report suggests a number of reforms, including developing more seminar-style courses, introducing science requirements for McDonough School of Business and School of Foreign Service students and making syllabi more readily available to students during the preregistration process. Through these and a number of other measures, the committee seeks to expand our lackluster “culture of learning.”

For some students, this culture already exists; for others, it doesn’t and likely never will. The university cannot force students to engage intellectually – to an extent, only the commitment of the students can make this happen. The university’s task, then, is to find ways to unobtrusively encourage and promote learning.

The report’s proposal of science requirements for the MSB and SFS, for example, is noble in spirit but impractical. Students in the SFS are already saddled with enough academic requirements – student learning needs greater depth, not greater breadth.

Proposals like the implementation of more seminar classes, the incorporation of different media into learning and the development of a program for students interested in careers in education are worthy ones, but together they may not be feasible on the university’s budget.

The report should have placed greater emphasis on advising, perhaps by suggesting that all students (first-year students in particular) be required to have advisers and meet with those advisers once each month. This system would enable advisers to challenge students academically and steer them toward potentially interesting fields. It could also foster the sort of academic and intellectual development of younger students that the report discusses.

The Intellectual Life Report made a bold attack on the state of our academic community; an insight on where to go from here was overdue. The committee’s report offers just this – a somewhat vague, well-informed conversation-starter. While some of its offerings are unrealistic and unnecessary, others could effect change for the better if implemented.

What matters most is that, after a period of relative silence in the wake of the Intellectual Life Report’s publication, the provost’s office has committed to working to change academic life at Georgetown. The suggestions made in this report must be solidified into concrete recommendations and action as soon as possible. All students and faculty should answer this “call to action,” give their impressions of this report’s suggestions, and thereby help to sustain our academic life.

To send a letter to the editor on a recent campus issue or Hoya story or a viewpoint on any topic, contact opinionthehoya.com. Letters should not exceed 300 words, and viewpoints should be between 600 to 800 words.

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