I’ve spent a bit of time detailing some efforts that I have made in order to get some type of discussion started at between the ILS department and online students at SCSU – hoping to address some issues that exist with the distance program. This effort began in mid-March with a letter that I wrote to the ILS department chair accompanied by a list of concerns that I compiled with the help of about 50-60 students (and alums, I believe). While the department chair was responsive and open to input, my efforts have seriously led to naught. Ok, that isn’t totally true, I think I ticked some people off along the way despite the fact that this wasn’t my goal at all. I also think that I may have inadvertantly started a schism between online students and the faculty/administration. Anyway, after I emailed the department chair and was disappointed to not get a formal response from the ILS department, I sent an email with my concerns to the dean of the ILS school. I sent the first email on May 24th. After waiting way too long, I followed up with my advisor and decided to send another email to the dean. I sent this second email on July 17th. There has been no response from the dean – NOTHING. Throughout all of this, I have been in contact with various students in the program who wanted to know if there had been any reaction. A couple of students are extremely close to leaving the program due to the lack of response.
At this point, I am extremely frustrated and even a bit angry over the relative lack of response or interest from the school as a whole. The sad part is that this situation now overshadows almost everything else from my educational experience at Southern. Honestly, I will not remember my time at Southern fondly. There will be some fond memories – some people that I will feel honored to have met and a few professors with whom I will have been very fortunate to study. However, I will for the most part remember that there were serious problems with the distance program and a deep reluctance on the part of the school to deal with them. I don’t know why there is such reluctance – maybe I approached this all wrong – maybe the school just isn’t ready – maybe there is too much else going on – maybe there are many overlapping reasons. It doesn’t really matter what the reason, there are some serious problems with the distance MLS program from the student viewpoint – and I think that the unwillingness to even discuss it is THE ultimate example of how problematic things are.
Having said that, I must say that the program is not unfixable nor is it inherently bad. When I graduate, I will have received a decent library school education – one for which I did not go into debt. This is a highly important to me. My experience will have been successful, just lacking something that could have made it fulfilling. My point in writing this post is not necessarily to discourage people from going to Southern. Obviously, there is a contingent of unhappy students. However, I can understand there are valid reasons for people to go to Southern - and I wouldn’t argue about the validity of the program. The issues are predominately about support services for distance/online students and procedures for these classes.
I’m not sure where to go or what to do next. The next person to go to logically is the dean of the graduate school – and I’m not sure that I want to do this. I’ve also thought about emailing the list of students that I worked with initially to develop the list of concerns that we sent to the ILS department chair to see if there is still interest in pursuing this topic. However, a part of me just wants to melt away into the background, finish my last two classes and graduate with minimum fuss. I admit that this option feels wrong, but I may have pushed as far I can.