• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Friday Fragments

Visiting students, bus drivers and a slow victory lap.

May 20, 2022

This week brought a fascinating discussion on which I’m hoping my wise and worldly readers can shed some light.

Should we limit, by policy, the number of credits a “visiting” student can take here over the summer?

A visiting student is a student who is matriculated someplace else—usually a four-year school—and who takes a class or classes with us with the intention of transferring the credits back to count toward their degree. Traditionally, many of them went away for college and came home for the summer; they’d take a class with us while working a summer job as a way either to save money or to keep an expected low grade (usually in math or science) out of their GPA.

We have a long-standing policy of limiting visiting students to eight credits at any one time, though we’re getting more requests to go over the limit. In a cross-functional meeting earlier this week, it became clear that there were multiple schools of thought on the question.

One school of thought says that visiting students tend to be savvy, are often high-achieving and really aren’t our responsibility anyway. They’re adults; if they think they can handle three summer classes at the same time, who are we to say no? Besides, they could always take a third class online from another community college, so it’s not like we could entirely stop them even with a policy.

Another camp says that we have an ethical responsibility to enforce rules for the general good, even if those rules sometimes inconvenience high achievers.

A third camp suggests that we could require intensive counseling before allowing exceptions, though it was generally conceded that with visiting students who register online, the logistics of that are likely unrealistic.

Wise and worldly readers, especially those at community colleges, what do you think? Is there a compelling argument we didn’t consider?

A pandemic side effect I didn’t anticipate: our college’s softball team has qualified for national finals about five hours away. It struggled to find a bus company with available drivers.

In normal times, that was not an issue. Now it very much is.

The Girl’s IB exams are over, but her school year runs to late June.

I’ve been a little surprised by just how bluntly her teachers have given up now that exams are over. Most of them are showing movies. Even the gym teacher seems to have quit, allowing “fitness walking” (defined as walking around the track with your friends for the entire period).

I’ve seen how hard the IB folks worked over the last two years—it’s a two-year program—so I really can’t begrudge them spending the last month of high school as a sort of (slow) victory lap. But I would have expected at least some effort to keep up appearances.

TG doesn’t mind. She knows a major life change is about to happen, and she’s looking forward to it. A bit of decompression now, while her friends are around, seems like a humane response to the buildup to the exams.

Still, the academic in me can’t help but wince a little.


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