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Dear Second-Year MA Students,

I want to take this opportunity to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. This has been a tough year and it might feel hard for some of us to feel celebratory, or even thankful. I’m not going to say something like “there’s always something to be thankful for,” even though I believe it, because each of us has to get to this place ourselves. But I do want to say, as the dean, that I feel proud of how we as an institution have faced the challenges of 2020—and since institutions are just collections of individuals, that means I also feel proud of how you have fulfilled your responsibilities in this difficult time.

Deborah, Meredith, Keith and I met with the Student Representatives in committee last week and I wanted to return to what we thought were points that needed further clarification.

Student Internship Requirement
It seems that there is some confusion over the internship requirement. Let me explain. From the founding of the BGC we have believed that the internship was an important way for students to get opportunities to put their learning to work in the world, and to get valuable experience in the world. Over the years, the internship turned into a veritable highway connecting students with employment possibilities. So much so, that even as we came to recognize, along with other institutions, that there was something unfair in a system that took advantage of unpaid labor, we kept on requiring students to enroll for course credit—and then to work for free. But last academic year we felt that enough was enough. That as an institution we could no longer participate in this system. On the other hand, we still believed that our internship requirement was important for students to learn about the world and to make contacts towards employment in that world. To square this circle the faculty decided at the end of the last academic year to restructure the MA internship program, keeping it as a requirement, but no longer charging students for it.

Starting with the entering class this year, MA students are no longer charged 3 credit hours of tuition for the internship. Let me say a word here about credits, which may seem a bit arcane, but is important to understand. NY State accredits degree programs based on a certain number of credit hours completed, whether it is an MA or a PhD. It can differ from program to program, though within certain constraints. When you sign up for a course that awards 3 credits, you may think that you are 3 credits closer to graduation. But your tuition here, and at any institution, is also calculated based on a cost-per-credit. You can’t get the credit towards graduation without there being a bill for graduation. That means that when we acknowledge that students who work for free during their internship are effectively paying the hosting institution for that opportunity to work and then stop charging them—you—a second fee, we have to charge you for those same 3 credits done elsewhere in your program or you will lack sufficient credits to graduate.

Faculty spent last spring deliberating about where to find those 3 credits. The simplest thing would have been to require every student to take one more seminar. But we also know that the program is pretty full as it is, and we are already wanting you to do more things outside of your regular program. That is why we decided to reallocate the 3 credits to other parts of the program that students have already been fulfilling, though without being given credit for it. These are: 1 credit for orientation (with the new digital literacy and writing as thinking courses which started in your year); 1-credit for the writing objects course (expanded and separated from the thinking objects review); and 1-credit for the seminar series, which asks students to attend events and keep and submit a response journal.

We believe this represents a fairer approach that also more accurately weights some of the other ways the program has been expanding the curriculum, while remaining a 48-credit MA. These changes do not amount to a waiving of a requirement, or a diminution of overall credits, but rather reflect the outcome of a planned rethinking of the credit distribution of the program.

Now, we also recognize that the roll out of this program has been complicated by the pandemic. Due to covid, we have now extended to you the option of fulfilling those credits through an internship, through attending seminar series events online—the Spring will have a full roster of lunch and evening events—, or by taking another class (or by a combination of all three).

I hope this clears up any confusion over the change in the program, and if you have any further questions about this please feel free to contact Keith or Meredith.

Bard Travel
As you know, we had held out hope that last year’s cancelled travel program could be rescheduled for this academic year. It is now clear that this will not be possible. What we are going to do in response to this is to redirect this money into a student research fund to which you can apply to help support research travel or additional education; for instance, tuition for courses or workshops (on line or in person). Each student may apply for up to $1,500 (a student may make more than one application). This is money you may apply for up until commencement, May 29, 2021. This money may go towards activity in the spring semester or into the summer, though not beyond August 29, 2021.

This is not replacing the travel and research fund, to which you may still apply, but is intended to cover a wider range of opportunities that may be available to you in the current landscape that would not have fit in neatly to QP related research / travel.

We’ll be circulating more information on how to apply. But for now please feel free to contact Keith, Deborah, or Meredith with any questions.

Sincerely yours,

Prof. Peter N. Miller