The latest idea to emerge from the CARS committees is a proposal for a required semester of Service to Society (STS). The proposal originates from the problem that Brandeis will face over the next five years as it increases enrollment from 3,200 to 3,700. Brandeis will have to figure where these students will live and where they will eat, on a campus that already has overcrowded dorms and long lines at dining halls.
This proposed solution would require every Brandeis student to spend one of his or her eight semesters off-campus engaging in some sort of public service. For many students this will mean an internship at a non-profit somewhere, for others it could mean intensive scientific research. During this semester students would earn the course credit equivalent to taking two or three courses, and pay tuition at a reduced rate (perhaps to the tune of 60%). The STS semester could be completed during summer vacation, enabling students to graduate in three and a half years. Or it could be taken during the regular academic school year, ensuring a normal four-year graduation time.
There are a number of ‘pros’ to this plan. Namely, it reduces the effects of overcrowding, as there will be fewer students on campus at any given point. The plan is innovative, and it may appeal to high school students interested in social justice. Furthermore, it reduces the cost of tuition to Brandeis because all students will now only pay 7.6 semesters of tuition, rather than eight.
There are also some ‘cons’ to the plan. Brandeis may face a slight backlash from creating a required service program; some people might feel like service should be a voluntary experience, not a mandatory program. Students will also be required to take five classes in one or two semesters to graduate on time. Furthermore the STS semester could interfere with study abroad. Though people will be encouraged to do their semesters of service internationally, should anyone also want to study at a university abroad, they would have to be off-campus for two semesters, rather than just one. This could disrupt clubs, student union, and may even make it harder for students to take the classes they need.
Ultimately, I think this is a really solid idea. The plan definitely has some issues that need to be sorted through before it can be put into action, but I think it works. I think this will make Brandeis a significantly more appealing school while simultaneously reaffirming our commitment to social justice.
If anyone would like more information, Professor Timothy Hickey has set up another wiki (http://wiki.cs.brandeis.edu/thirdsemester) with most of the relevant information regarding a semester of service and/or a summer semester.