USC’s Student Senate has openly opposed a proposal for mandatory experiential learning, a policy sponsored by the Faculty Senate to require students to get 45 hours of out-of-classroom experiences.
“I think experiential learning in and of itself is a great thing and something that I think all students should do,” said Patrick Greene, second-year biochemistry and molecular biology student and chairman of the senate judiciary committee. “However, I think it’s misguided to require students to complete experiential learning and even more specifically to require them to complete a specific hour requirement.”
USC currently helps students find internships, research opportunities and other types of experiential learning. This policy change would require all students to incorporate this into their curriculum.
Greene represents the College of Arts and Sciences in Student Senate, where he worries experiential learning will not be as easily incorporated and opportunities not easily found.
“It’s unclear what exactly will end up counting as experiential learning and what will not,” Greene said.
Senate bill 38 opposes experiential learning for reasons such as increasing the time some students may spend at USC, leading to more student debt, issues completing graduation requirements for transfer students and what they say are few benefits in general.
“We did a ton of research on it,” Greene said. “We looked at other schools and that sort of thing, and we really thought that it wasn’t the best decision to put this on students as a requirement.”
Despite, the bill, not everyone was in total agreement. Casey Hamlin, a third-year political science student and student senator, cited other research done on experiential learning for students as showing the necessity of adding the additional graduation requirements.
“Experiential learning has really nothing but upsides for the student body,” Hamlin said. “Studies show that cognitively, students do better and are more employable with experiential learning, and at the end of the day most of us are trying to get degrees to be employed.”
Azalfa Lateef, third-year biochemistry student and student senator, believes students should be required to have out-of-classroom experiences after her positive experience combining her interest in politics and medicine.
“I do Student Government,” Lateef said. “I want to be a doctor though, but Student Government has provided me the best interpersonal skills, communication skills which I wouldn’t have gained if I didn't go out there and actually try to do something that wasn’t just required in my major.”
Senate bill 38 was passed after 28 senators co-sponsored the resolution stating that Student Senate found the policy unfavorable. Lateef will present the resolution to the Faculty Senate who will make the decision about whether the experiential learning bill goes to the Board of Trustees.
“They are gonna be emplacing this policy hopefully 2019, 2020, so now they’re just trying to find the kinks of the program and then bring it back forth to Faculty Senate because they have to vote it in for it to be a policy,” Lateef said.
The Faculty Senate can go against the resolution, but Greene hopes the voice of students will be heard in the deliberation.
“It is ultimately up to the Faculty Senate and the faculty themselves as to whether or not they want to make it a requirement,” Greene said. “But I would hope they would really heed the advice of the students because we do represent the student body and we take that position very seriously.”