I have my mornings in a pretty set routine: reach over for my phone, switch off the alarm, check if it’s really time to get up, and scroll through my emails. The emails are seldom anything out of the ordinary – mostly consisting of GroupOn, ScoutMob, and Overstock deals – so you can imagine my reaction when I woke up to the following email:
I have been looking forward to working with you in the French Honors Program this coming year. But unfortunately I have just learned that your GPA is too low for you to be eligible for the program. (I recall that you had hoped it would be high enough by the end of the spring semester; I gather that didn’t work out.) Since the Dean insists strongly on the GPA requirement, I am afraid that there is nothing I can do about this from my end.
I am very sorry that the French Honors Program can’t work out for you–but I wish you a very good academic year, pursuing your interests in other venues, and doing other interesting and challenging things.
I was just rendered perplex by the contents of the email since after all, I had been accepted into the program months before without any outlined conditions to which I would be bound. In any case, I like to think that I have a good temper about things, and decided that it would be a prime Facebook status or statement to make to friends because of its bizarre nature. After all, who is “belatedly” rejected from a program to which they were accepted?
Perhaps there was some case in reversing my candidacy, I thought, so I mulled about the situation for a couple of days, and asked the opinions of several peers and staff. Everyone had the same thought – if I was already accepted, it would be absurd to now reject me given that my current GPA, which seemed to pose the problem, was already known about upon acceptance. For the record, a minimum of a 3.65 of an overall and major GPA are necessary for consideration as the website states (well, it also states that the English paper is possible, but it has been phased out – so rather, it’s a pick and choose here). With that said, “necessary” isn’t always the case, as one can see with my Steinhardt departmental honours program, which calls for a much higher GPA (3.75), to which I was accepted in any case because of my proposal.
And then the emails began. First, I sent one to my at-the-time sponsoring professor requesting for support, but deciding that time took precedence over permissions, I opted for a more direct approach, which would be opening a line of communication with the acting dean of the college of arts and sciences. That and I also believe in “go big or go home.” Below is the correspondence beginning with my email (with the omission of names):
I have taken the time to allow myself to digest the email below, as well asked the opinions from fellow peers and associates on the matter, and have prepared the following thoughts on it. Duly noted, I have already contacted Prof … and disclosed the situation as well as my sentiments, which I will now share with you given that you are the current acting dean of the college of arts and science.
The reversal in decision of my acceptance into the honours program baffles me.
It was understood prior to my acceptance of my current GPA (3.61), and I was advised that I would require a minimum of 3.60 to even be considered. Admittedly, the website outlines a minimum 3.65; however, I was accepted nonetheless without any terms of condition to which I would have to abide. In other words, it was never noted that I would have to complete the spring 2011 semester with a 3.65 GPA; I had merely suggested that it would be likely that I would have such grades.
As a student who actually spent her freshman year abroad, and subsequently another whole academic year abroad, I feel that I have very little connection to the Washington Sq campus. With that said, I feel even more so estranged from a department that houses my second major – such being because I had taken all my required courses at the Paris abroad site, with the bulk of the courses completed this past academic year in back-to-back semesters. Evidently, in completing all of my major courses in a year without having taken any French courses the previous year that I would struggle in the beginning (and my grades would say so, as well), which did happen; however, it is duly noted by the professors there that my writing and command of the language has significantly improved.
It is to say, that I am being judged on a challenge that I undertook, with its huge learning curve that many students have had their freshman, sophomore, and junior year to absorb (and thus allowing for gradual growth), what with my completing the major within two back-to-back semesters.
Permit me, if I may, also add and explain what considerations I have had to undertake. Under the strong advisement of Professor …, it was suggested that I take a French course (most likely, my senior seminar) in the fall semester, as opposed to my planned spring, which would have fit better into my schedule. Wanting to continue improvement in my French communication skills, as well as demonstrate my desire to belong to the honours program, I enrolled without hesitation. It is to say that I now have a schedule that would have otherwise been ideal for internships (what with Tues, Thurs and Fri being free), but now have a course on Tues/Thurs that commences at 9AM; it is not to say that finding an internship is impossible with my experience, it does however place me at a disadvantage amongst other candidates whose availabilities are left completely open for the day.
Furthermore, the consideration of having a part-time job or internship is now compromised. As an international student in her senior year, it is important for me to land a prospect that will secure me for my OPT (one year’s license to work in America); however, I opted to not seek an internship because I was under the assumption that I would be pursuing double honours.
The mention of my “double honours” brings me to my last point. The minimum GPA for consideration within Steinhardt’s media, culture and communications department is much higher than that of CAS; it is 3.75. In any case, I was accepted into their program on the sole basis of my proposal, and not my GPA. In addition, I have also qualified for Steinhardt’s DRTC (dean’s research travel colloquium). What it goes to say is that there should be no question to my academic ability.
What I would like in terms of an outcome is an apology for this mess and stress that it has caused, my reinstatement in the program, and financial coverage of these two credits (given that I am currently registered for 20 and the extra 2 come from this honours program – it is understood from my peers that the … department has offered to bite the bullet for credit tuition because of matters regarding … ).
Should you want to further discuss this in person, I’d be happy to oblige.
My email was quickly received and replied to in hopes of quickly achieving some kind of resolution:
Dear Ms. Leung,
Thank you for informing me of your concern; I understand that this is a source of some distress. I have asked Associate Dean for Students (and chair of our committee on Academic Standards), …, to look into the matter with the French Department. He is cc’d above and available to discuss the situation with you.
I appreciate your ambition to complete a double honors major. We like to facilitate high scholarly ambitions as much as we can, but that means we have the obligation to consider the curricular program of each student carefully.
… will be in touch with you shortly, as we seek an appropriate and speedy resolution.
And so a day after, I’m met with a reply that simply doesn’t sit well with me, more so because of what the French department’s reply to my “appeal” was.
I have consulted with the French Department regarding your desire to pursue honors in your French major. Based on your appeal, Professor … and Professor … reviewed the course work that you have completed and your grades (3.48 GPA in the major). They have concluded that you do not meet the necessary academic level required to pursue the honors track in French. They know the level of knowledge that a student needs in French in order to successfully complete honors-level research and a thesis.
I realize that this final decision is not the outcome that you were hoping for, however I would encourage you to complete the French major since it means that you will be graduating with a double major. This is an accomplishment in itself of which you can be proud.
Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance.
Now it should be noted that the one thing that I dislike more than rejection is bungled calculation, which I had pointed out in my subsequent email.
Dear Professor …,
I have consulted my records and recalculated my major GPA for verification, and can understand how the 3.48 was derived. However, it should be noted as ~3.55, which presents a great difference. Professor …’s class on French colonization is to be included with my MCC requirements and not my French major requirements. Since MCC does not permit double counting (unless it is for the journalism major), the grade obtained in that class should not be counted towards completion of the French major (I have cc’ed academic advisor … to confirm that was the logic in taking the course upon clearing me for registration). In any case, such would be reason why I had pursued an additional French course so as to fulfill requirements for electives in the major, given that without Professor …’s second class, I would be needing two more courses this coming semester for completion of the major. In addition, the 2 credit workshop was not considered in the previous calculation, though it is noted as being counted toward to the major according to the staff at the NYU in France campus.
To add, if there is doubt on my ability to conduct myself in written expression, the honours page also suggests that there is the possibility of writing the complete thesis in English (with an additional 20 pages) under special circumstances; such has not been made clear as to what these circumstances may be, but it may be construed or supposed to be regarding academic ability vs. command of language.
What I especially fail to understand is, had they already been aware with my writing sample and academic record in pain view, why I was given acceptance without conditions (which can be read below) – for which I had made adjustments and compromises to my schedule (professionally and academically). I do not feel as though there have been miscommunication on my part as I had been extremely clear and transparent. I have yet to receive apology for this great inconvenience that has been done to me, and subsequently find it quite disrespectful.
Congratulations for being admitted in the French Honors program. You have all chosen very interesting topics: Professor …, your advisors and I are looking forward to work with you next year and help you achieve your goals. As Honors students, you will be automatically enrolled in the Honors Thesis Workshop which will meet on a regular basis, roughly once every other Friday mornings during both semesters. This will add 2 credits in the fall and 2 credits in the spring of your senior year. Professor … will communicate the schedule or these meetings in her syllabus which will be made available a few weeks before the beginning of the fall semester. Until then, if you have any concerns or questions about the program, do not hesitate to contact me.
Wishing you a successful end of semester and a relaxing summer,
The series of emails then concludes itself on this note:
Thank you for the email. I appreciate all of the detailed information that you provided regarding the particular courses that will be counting toward your major. Although this helps to clarify your major GPA, it does not change the final decision made by the French Department. As I said, they reviewed your course work and concluded that your academic record and background needed to be stronger for you to successfully complete the required work for the honors thesis. The Department no longer permits the thesis to be written in English.
I truly regret the confusion and difficulty you have experienced regarding this situation. It would have been better if the email from Professor … had reminded students of the fact that acceptance into the honors track was contingent upon a review of the Spring semester course work and grades, as well as underscoring the necessity to maintain an excellent level of academic work throughout the senior year.
Again, I regret the inconvenience that you feel was caused by these circumstances.
Though it was thoughtful and nice to be provided the requested apology, it would have been better if the original email had stated that there were conditions (so as to have reasonable grounds), and even better for the department who erred to apologize, as opposed to someone who was culpable.
To sum it up, I was more bothered by the inefficient communication and attitude on part of the French department (they haven’t sent one email to me since the first one at the beginning of this post), and knowingly had me re-orient a schedule to something that I would later find out to be conditional and so quickly dismissed. And given that my academics and writing sample were well known about, it wouldn’t have been appropriate to accept me in any case (especially when one calculates blindly as had been done) according to their standards (purely numerical). I do, however, salute the higher-uppers on their responsiveness and etiquette.
But hey, in good humour, at least I get to have a claim to something that most don’t – who gets kicked out of a program after being accepted (apart from academic probation)?
Image courtesy of Flickr (user: erikh_cj)