Op-Ed: EPC Responds to Criticism of Module System

By F&M Educational Policy Committee

In response to Trinity Nguyen’s recent Op-Ed in the College Reporter, we, the members of the Educational Policy Committee, would like briefly to revisit the reasons why we proposed the Module structure and pause to reflect on where we are right now.

Right now, we are less than two weeks into the first Module of the year. The new pace and rhythm is shocking for us all– like jumping into frigid water. Some of us are struggling, even as we work hard to ensure that we educate and care for one another. But Modules have the potential to structure our work productively and humanely during this pandemic year. 

Two main principles guided our revision of the Academic Calendar. The first was the safety of everyone in the F&M community. The second was the preservation of the F&M education and student experience we all treasure. We sought an academic term structure that would be least disrupted by unpredictable developments and, in particular, would best protect us all from a possible surge of COVID-19 cases in late fall and early winter. We sought a structure that would enable in-depth study, while avoiding the intense, overwhelming stresses that came along with managing too many courses — for both faculty and students — during the online phase of the Spring 2020 semester. Modules allow us to focus on fewer subjects, reducing distraction and enhancing the potential for close faculty-student and student-student interactions at a time when we are all more distant from one another. 

This is not to discount Trinity Nguyen’s many thoughtful points about workload, rumination, equality, and accessibility for all students. We acknowledge, too, the challenges faced by those who balance work, or caring for family members, with study and teaching. We are grateful to Trinity for bringing these important concerns powerfully to the community’s attention. We share them. 

Still, it’s important to remember that there is no perfect solution to the problems posed by COVID-19. No academic calendar would have been problem-free (and believe us, we considered a lot of possibilities). At this moment, we are only beginning to learn what it is like to study and teach in this system. There’s no going back, so we need to approach things with an open mind and the willingness to work together to make the most of Modules. 

We encourage everyone to play an active role in teaching and learning together. Give your faculty helpful feedback about the pace or the workload. Offer to help a fellow student. Take advantage of the consistent development of skills and knowledge that the Module system offers. An intellectual community is more than just the structure that frames it: it depends on a spirit of engagement, and a willingness to try new things. We can do this. Let’s do it together.

This piece was submitted by the EPC committee. Maureen Adames ‘22, Prof. Erik Anderson, Prof. Lee Franklin, Prof. Etienne Gagnon, Ashley Little ‘21, Prof. and Dean Amelia Rauser, Prof. Scott Smith.

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