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Students’ interests at mind

Letter to the Editor | Monday, December 8, 2008

As Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Arts and Letters, I would like to address the concerns that Eric Prister expressed in The Observer on December 4. In writing, I wish to reaffirm the Assistant Deans’ commitment to helping undergraduates flourish while they are at Notre Dame and well after they graduate. We try to meet the needs of every student who comes to see us, whether it’s about fulfilling a requirement or inquiring about the availability of funding for research, attending graduate or professional school, applying for post-graduate fellowships, finding the right study-abroad program, or acquiring an internship.

We would maintain that we have students’ best interests in mind – as is the case when sophomores like Eric Prister ask for an overload. Over the years, we have seen any number of students make a similar request only to drop a class within a few weeks after a new semester begins. It is easy for students to feel overwhelmed by the demands of coursework and the other activities they participate in. Thus our response is to be a bit protective. We want to help students avoid getting in over their heads.

However, Eric makes the very legitimate point that the Assistant Deans should be willing to listen to students who may have a very good reason to depart from standard policy. There is much at stake for each student. I met with Eric, and we were able to resolve the issue about which he wrote in The Observer.

Still, it is worth keeping in mind that the demands upon the Assistant Deans at the end of the semester can be pretty overwhelming because the requests we receive are so urgent. Students have exam conflicts that we try to resolve, we are doing graduation checks for students who plan to complete their degrees by the end of the semester, and we are trying to insure that students who are struggling can finish out the semester.

We also meet with many students who are trying to finalize their schedules. It would be unfair to allow students like Eric to overload before every student has an opportunity to complete their schedules. This is why we ask students who want to “overload” to wait until after a new semester begins.

I appreciate Eric Prister’s concern that the Assistant Deans and I treat each student as an individual. This is what we strive to do in the Office for Undergraduate Studies. And this is what I think sets Notre Dame apart from other universities. We can always do better.

Stuart Green

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies

College of Arts and Letters

Dec. 8