On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Associate Dean of Academic Programs & Strategic Initiatives, Dean Emily Chan, the Director of International Programs, Inger M. Bull, and the International Student Specialist, Lisa Kosiewicz Doran, hosted a lunch meeting about Global Scholar Program (GSP), a mandatory summer program for international students to “adjust to U.S. classroom culture in a higher education context” and “gain a valuable introduction to the intense academic pace of the college’s Block Plan” and strengthen their fluency with academic English.” 10 out of 25 Chinese students who were required in the past summer showed up. (For more information on GSP, please refer to an earlier Catalyst’s reporting on Oct. 7.)
On Oct 24, Dean Emily Chan sent out an email to all the 2016 GSP participants. The email highlighted that the College is implementing nine changes from both the Admission Office and the Academic Division for the next year:
• “Early and clear communication about program goals, admissions process, financial aid availability
• We will notify all international students of GSP at the point of application submission. All international students, regardless of whether they intend to apply for financial aid, will have the opportunity to review information about GSP.
• We will add GSP link to navigation bar on the International Applicants admission page and on the International Students page.
• Email notifications will be up and running early to give students sufficient chance to review the program, get more information, and complete forms.
• Offers including GSP to be published concurrently with admission notification, but “early” students who are required to attend the GSP will have the option of switching out of a binding round.
• Integrate new fee and financial aid language for 2017 to let students know that need-based financial aid is available. If a student is invited to attend the GSP and is eligible for need-based aid, their GSP aid award will be stated with the admissions letter.
• It will be communicated clearly that selection criteria are based on holistic assessment (not a point system), based on language of schooling and native language, curriculum, SAT/TOEFL, interview, and writing samples. There may be students with very strong testing who will still benefit. Therefore, admissions will use a holistic evaluation that takes into account their educational preparation and achievements.”
Administrative changes from the academic division:
• Offer courses that can count for general education credits and put forth these courses for approval prior to summer.
• Enhance co-curricular programming throughout the academic year to provide strong support, a sense of community, and further leadership development.
• Update GSP website to reflect, in non-technical language, these administrative updates.”
According to Dean Chan, the above changes related to CC’s website will be available within ten days. Many GSP participants stated that they are glad that the college is implement changes for the future, but also expressed their concern that the school only focuses on the future rather than on students.
“Everything discussed in the lunch meeting is about the future. The college does not offer any formal apologies or any compensations for us,” First-year Yuchen(Jack) Gu said.
First-year Sixuan (Irene) Chen said, “Dean Emily Chan attempted to explain everything but she is mainly in charge of the academic divisions rather than the Admission Office.” Chen felt that Dean Chan does not offer an authoritative response to many admission-related questions, so she was “confused why there were no representatives from the Admission Office.”
First-year Trillian Fan said, “We asked many questions such as the selection standards of GSP, but the school only offered the official and vague explanations and did not really answer the questions.”
Chen added that Dean Chan emphasized selection criteria as “a holistic assessment,” including writing samples, recommendation letters, standardized letters, etc., but still failed to justify why all 25 international students from China were required to participate.
Dean Chan responded, “It is really a holistic process of viewing applications…There was no point system in the admission process. There is nothing that the Admission Office has hidden there.” Dean Chan added, even from her perspective as someone outside the admission process, “there was no secret system of including certain students or not.” She stated that the Admission Office looks at the students’ applications and makes a general determination based on past experiences and faculty feedbacks about student performances, and then required students, who would benefit from the GSP, to participate and ensure their success at CC.
Fan said, “During the lunch meeting, Dean Chan stressed the separation between the academic division and the Admission Office. She could only offer her guesses about the thoughts within the Admission Office.” Gu added, “It seems that Dean Chan does not seem to know some details of GSP very well.”
He added, “There seems to be many problems within the communication between the admission and the academic division.” At the same time, Fan felt that “the school is not sincere enough to solve the problems for the 2016 GSP participants. It does not seem like they care much about our request to know the exact selection standards.”
Fan said, “The school should have a relatively transparent selection standard of the GSP program on the website. Then when international students apply, we can estimate whether we will be required to attend the program. If the school can show clearly the selection criteria, costs and dates of GSP when we apply to CC, many controversies surrounding GSP this year will be avoided.”
“Even now, I still do not understand the reason why I was required to participating the GSP,” said Jack Gu. “I feel, even without GSP, I would not have had problems of adapting life at CC.” Gu thinks that international students graduated with IB, AP or A-level Diploma do not necessarily need GSP as a transition.
Gu also felt that the intensity of the Block Plan does not justify why international students are required to participate: “Domestic students also face similar challenges of getting used to the Block Plan.”
Another concern among the GSP participants is the non-transparency of the activity fees ($1,200) of the GSP program. First-year Bingqing (Zoey) Zhou said, “I really do not think that all the actives we did in a month cost that much money, especially since many of activities are optional.” First-year Jiexin (Zoe) Zhou also shared similar concerns.
“Activity fees were used for all the food, transportation, mentor’s salary, etc. GSP uses the same budget guidance’s as the program fees of Studying Aboard programs,” Dean Chan replied. “All GSP program fees will only be used for GSP… We cannot use it for other things.” Dean Chan added, “There won’t be any leftover. The Office of International Programs will ensure that all GSP budget will be used up [by the end of the school year].”
Responding to GSP participants’ request of sharing the budget, Dean Chan said, “We don’t share departmental budget to students at CC.” Dean Chan said that there were “lots of checks and balances” within the system and multiple people oversee the budgets within the school, such as staff from the Business Offices, ensuring we are following the college’s guidelines.
Dean Chan emphasized that the original email from the Admission Office, which states that students will earn 1.5 units from the GSP, is a typo. Dean Chan explained that 1.5 units is an error since the Admissions Office used last year’s emal template: “As soon as we found the typo, Lisa [the International Student Specialist] informed students, and students are also only charged for 1.0 unit of tuition fees. The course was also only approved by the faculty for 1.0 units. They are all facts… There is no retroactive arguing about the credit.” Dean Chan said, “We regretted that there was a 1.5 units typo. We corrected it as quickly as possible.”
However, Zizhen (Trillian) Fan, Yuchen (Jack) Gu, and Sixuan (Irene) Chen all stated that there was no such clarification during the program at all. They only realized that 1.5 units was a typo after the program ended.
Gu said, “If professors deducted marks from students’ final essays if there was a typo, how can you argue it back?” He believes that the College should take responsibility for its action, even if it is just a typo.
Fan said she was really angry that the concerns of 2016 GSP participants were not addressed at all during the lunch meeting.
Fan is currently in charge of compiling a petition among 2016 GSP participants (update: click here for the full text of the GSP Petition) and will request a further meeting with the Admission Office, and the Office of the International Programs, and the Dean’s Office.
In the petition, 2016 GSP participants demand:
“1. An official explanation about the 2016 GSP selection standard;
2. A partial refund of tuition and the activity fee;
3. A formal apology published in the Catalyst.”
Meanwhile, Zijing (Michael) Wu, the Co-Chair of the Chinese Students Association (CSA), said that CSA wants to further the conversation with the College regarding GSP. Wu said, “One of the main goals of CSA is to support and advocate for international students from China.”
When The Catalyst asked whether the College would offer an official apology regarding the overall GSP experience, Dean Chan said that her door is always open for conversation. “I would love to meet anybody who would love to continue the conversation and has ideas about building the GSP Community and broadly speaking about international students’ engagements,” said Dean Chan.
“Admissions is to get students here. Admissions does not work with students who are at CC… Now that students are here, we made a lot of changes in admissions. I’m sure that in the next ten years, we will keep improving.” Dean Chan believes that for the students, the more important question is not about public apology, but how to make a “wonderful four years.” Chan added, from the Dean’s Office’s perspective, “the most practical, important follow-up of GSP is how to get everybody the support they need, so they can get internships and good jobs.”