You all may have seen the email sent by the Director of Study Abroad, Mr. Van Der Meid, several days ago. With little apology or consultation with those wishing to study abroad next semester, the letter announced that all students studying abroad in Spring 2010 would be housed in the Village. It further announced that any merit-based scholarship would not be transferrable to pay for study abroad. Whoah.

The administration provided only allusions to the reasons for these changes. It seems they plan on housing all of the study abroad kids in the village in order to “continue to house the incoming mid-year class together.”

I wonder – does this mean they plan on putting all the mid-years in the Village vacated by the study abroad kids? That would be the simple switch-up. Or is there some other housing shuffling shenanigans in the works of which we are unaware? I don’t understand this at all – people studying abroad already are gone from campus for one semester. Now, they will all be put in the Village, seperating them from their on-campus friends for the fall semester as well!

Even worse in my mind, however (and I am a bit biased), is the non-transferrability of merit scholarships. Students who received these scholarships in their acceptance letter were specifically told that they would be transferrable to study abroad – if you doubt me, here’s my scholarship letter (click for bigger):

brandeis-scholarship-letter

Note the second-to-last sentence:

These awards may be used for approved study abroad programs.

I understand that the University is suffering because of the financial crises, and needs to make cuts. But this is outrageous. Cutting study-abroad opportunities for merit scholars is the polar opposite of Jehuda’s pledge to keep academics relatively unaffected by the budget cuts. Many of us, myself included, would be completely unable to study abroad under the new system – especially in light of a crashing economy.

I also do not fully understand what financial benefit the University will receive from such a measure. In most cases, I thought colleges profit from study abroad – here’s a NY Times article on the situation from a few years back. At the very least, the cost of sending a student abroad should be defrayed by the lowered cost to the University of not having them here.

But whatever the reason, the new change seems to be pretty much illegal. The University guaranteed us in signed documents that our scholarships would be transferrable to study abroad, and now they are attempting to renege on that guarantee. What is more, administrators did so in the middle of a seemingly innocuous email, trying to slip such a change past everybody. This is dishonest, disrespectful, and entirely below the level I expect of my University. 

The Student Union is working on getting this reversed, and given the overwhelming evidence in favor of a reversal, I expect it to be done quickly. What is more, I hope for a sincere apology for the disrespect showed the Brandeis community in the mere attempt in such a way to introduce such a change.

I may sound angry and undiplomatic, and I am. I mean no disrespect to any individual involved in this policy – it probably was simply not thought through well enough. It is the policy itself and the fact that it was introduced as an already done deal to us all that really riles me. Seriously Brandeis – WTF?

14 comments on “Anger at Study Abroad Changes”

  1. TSL Says:

    Is there no other contract for the scholarship? This doesn’t look like a legal contract, which a) you would’ve been required to sign and b) would’ve most likely contained a clause or two saying that Brandeis reserves the right to alter their side of the bargain. The letter isn’t a legally binding guarantee, therefore their actions aren’t illegal – just really, really dickish.

  2. hbk2369 Says:

    Loki,

    I agree with your comments about the scholarships.

    You’re right though, they are going to put mid-years in the Village since they are not renovating any buildings next fall. Right now, in Ziv, there are many empty or nearly empty suites, this is lost revenue for the University. To prevent this from happening again, they put in the changes for housing. This University is pretty much evil.

  3. Loki Says:

    TSL –
    I am not sure; there probably is; though this is all I had my parents send me from home. If it isn’t legal, its certainly dishonest, and I’ll bet the University still reverses the decision – from what I understand, some higher-level admins weren’t even aware of the change till it was brought to their attention by students.

  4. amber Says:

    You know, some people don’t have full scholarships. Some people, have to take out a loan every semester and work alot during the school week to be able to pay their tuition because their 5000 dollar scholarship doesn’t cover enough and their single mother lost her job and hasn’t been able to help out at all.

    Maybe some people wish they could study abroad but can’t because not only do they work to pay for their own tuition and the loans that they take out, but they also need to send some money home to their unemployed mother who takes care of their sick elderly grandmother.
    Maybe someone else, i.e. YOU, should forget the feeling of self-entitlement and pull their head out of their ass, thereby starting to feel like a gift – a privilege – was taken away, and not a right.

    I agree that the administration was wrong in doing this, but your demeanor is appalling, and you’re seriously offending the rest of the community. I reiterate: get your self-entitled head out of your ass, and start reacting a little sad, maybe a little frustrated – but in no right or position to be angry at an already financially burdened administration.

    Don’t take this message personally, I don’t mean to offend you. Just take it easy, man: Not everyone has the luxury of a full ride.

  5. Sahar Says:

    Amber, I don’t have a Justice Brandeis Scholarship. However, I think we’re witnessing an attempt of “divide and conquer” here.

    The fact of the matter is that the University is trying to renege on prior commitments to students without so much as an apology.

    We shouldn’t let them push us around like that. If they just went after Legal Studies majors, would you stay silent (assuming you’re not in legal studies)? Of course not! An assault on one is an assault on the whole.

  6. amber Says:

    I agree with the attempt to reverse this proposal, but all I’m saying is that people should feel a little more like its a privilege and not a right. Its a little unnerving knowing that I’m going to have over 95 thousand dollars in loans when I graduate, and someone is moaning about paying one semester abroad (which may in fact be cheaper if you study in Guatemala which is what my girlfiend is doing…)

    Anyways, my only point is that I felt like he was feeling a little too self-entitled; a little too elite for the rest of us.

  7. Victoria Says:

    I actually think, for those not on merit aid, that this is a great deal for spring abroad students. While the rest of the student body has to fret about getting housing, you have it guaranteed. And it’s in the village, which is really nice. Sure, you might not live with your friends, but the other junior/senior housing is right next to the village, and if 40% of juniors study abroad, you’ve probably got other friends studying abroad too.

    I, however, am almost set to go away in the fall (my university already has my application). One of the reasons I applied for the fall is because I was told it’s easy for fall abroad students to get on campus housing; they take the vacancies of spring abroad students. Now, however, I’m afraid that the empty village spaces will go to the midyears (which is unfair anyway, considering how nice the village is AND that theyd be separated from the rest of the freshmen) and I won’t get on-campus housing. This will make my parents very angry!

    Also, there are so many reasons why fall abroad should be encouraged in the spring, and this discourages it (incentive of guaranteed housing). I for one want to be here in the spring for preparing for my senior thesis and graduate applications, and I’m sure others need to negotiate things like internships.

    Hopefully the dust will settle and all my worst fears will turn out to be only that–fears!

  8. Loki Says:

    Amber,

    The scholarships of merit students – and their transferrability abroad – were guaranteed them for four years upon entrance to the University. The fact that they received these scholarships was a great privilege, and an honor. Yet the guarantee was just that – a guarantee. No one has the right to a scholarship, but we do have the right to trust a guarantee from our university. In this sense, the University has violated our rights egregiously.

    It sucks to have to pay off loans, and the tremendous cost of college is a completely different, larger problem in and of itself. But this is another issue – the University has gone ahead without even consulting the affected parties, and taken away a right, a privilege, whatever, that had been promised them. Other students had a chance to take their finances into consideration when planning to study abroad, whether that entail setting aside money, whatever. The fact of the matter is, I, and every other merit scholar who is not very wealthy, will no longer be able to study abroad, at all.

    Sahar is right when he says this is an offense against everyone. Even if it does not affect you, we need to stand in solidarity against this trend of making substantive, unfair cuts that seriously restructure our University without consulting students.

  9. Dev Says:

    I’m with Victoria on the Fall abroad thing. The e-mail mentioned NOTHING about housing for those studying abroad in the Fall; what about us? What are they planning to do with us? I was debating whether to go for the fall or the year, but it seems like now Brandeis is basically saying “Sorry, you can’t come back–we’re housing the midyears there.”

    Wait a second–they’re telling some people they can’t go abroad, and telling others nothing about what would happen when they came back?

  10. Loki Says:

    After checking into this with Pres. Gray and others, I can say that fall study abroad-ers will be also be staying in the village, along with the midyear class. So the midyears will be living right alongside Juniors and Seniors who were studying abroad, far far away from the other freshmen.

  11. Emma Says:

    Having studied abroad last year:

    The University charged us regular tuition for our time abroad. Therefore, if you got a scholarship, you were charged the reduced rate.

    HOWEVER, almost every single place you could possibly study costs far less than either the regular or reduced Brandeis tuition. I studied in England, one of the most expensive places, and tuition was about $13,000 for the year. Since Brandeis charges us full costs, it makes money after paying the abroad school’s bill. Pulling back its merit scholarship (many merit students getting about 10k each year) would allow it to make more of a profit.

    Had this happened while I was earlier into my Brandeis career, I might have seriously considered studying permanently at my state university. Better deal!

  12. Student Senate in a Nutshell: Resignations, Elections, Administrative Clash | Innermost Parts Says:

    […] recent decisions concerning scholarships and students studying abroad. First of note, which Alex discussed in a recent post, is J. Scott Van Der Meid’s announcement that merit based scholarships will no longer be accepted […]

  13. Major changes in store for Brandeis - but let’s not tell the students | Innermost Parts Says:

    […] instead of firsthand? And least we’re being informed of proposed changes, unlike in the boneheaded decision to shaft students on Study Abroad without so much as an apology. Again – why did the student body at large learn about all this through a leaked […]

  14. Daniel Ortner Says:

    I was wondering if anyone remembered signing a legal document or promisary for any merit based scholarship. Any information on that would be helpful. I went to the FIRE website to give them information about this situation in case they find the case relevant.