Social Work students petition changes

Part-time School of Social Work students are currently petitioning the administration in reaction to new curriculum implemented this year. Amanda Armoogam, the Master of Social Work student heading the petition, met with administrative leaders last weekend to discuss the effects of the new curriculum on part-time students.

Armoogam’s concerns involve students who were displaced from their original campuses and who will now struggle to finish their coursework in time for certification. But she is also concerned with the fact that the administration made these changes without consulting students, and without informing them in advance. The School of Social Work held several town hall meetings last year to inform students that the curriculum would be changing, but the specific changes were never announced.

It wasn’t until August that Armoogam found out the specific changes. Many of her classmates remained unaware for months into the semester, only discovering the issues when they went to enroll for spring classes. After reaching out to her own classmates, Armoogam created a Facebook page to bring together students who are affected. Since then, she’s been contacted by students from every campus who are concerned about the effects of the new curriculum.

“I was kind of shocked,” Armoogam said. “I knew it was 300 students being affected, but I didn’t realize that at every campus there were students being affected by it.”

The new curriculum creates several problems for current students. A major program was cut in San Diego, meaning that some students must commute from their homes in San Diego to the Orange County campus, or take their classes online. Additionally, two classes that used to be part of the core MSW curriculum have been merged. For students who already took them, the classes are now counted as two of the three electives that each student is allowed to take.

These changes mean that some students are commuting for around four hours a day, a cost in both time and money that was unexpected up until this year. They also mean that some students will have to take extra classes after graduation, since the electives they previously planned to take are unavailable to them with only one elective slot left. For these reasons, Armoogam has created a petition and begun talking to administrators over the last few months in order to make the voices of the MSW students heard.

The petition includes four main requests from the administration. One is for travel stipends and free parking spaces to be granted to displaced students who must travel to a different campus for their studies. This request was agreed upon during the meeting on Saturday. However, Armoogam believes there are still important measures to take to ensure fair treatment for MSW students.

“The big question here is, as a private college, do they have to answer to the students?” Armoogam said. “Are administrators really allowed to make major changes without even informing the students, not to mention asking their opinions?”

Armoogam said she hopes to secure a scholarship for students whose elective options were diminished or altered by the change. The new curriculum cut $3 million in electives funding, and many of the elective options were altered. This means that students don’t have the same access to the electives necessary for graduation. The petition asks for scholarships to offset the added classes that students might have to take due to this change.

The petition also requests that students on the Orange County campus are allowed a semester of weekend courses. These courses give more flexibility to students who are part-time and work jobs during the week. The request includes lowering the minimum student enrollment to 10 students, in order to make the class more available.

The final request involves the Pupil Personnel Services Credential, a type of authorization that allows students to specialize in school counseling, school social work, school psychology and child welfare in schools. Armoogam wants a Virtual Academic Center option for the students working toward this program. This virtual option would also make it easier for students who are part-time and can’t add a third class.

Each of these requests would help students in a different way, but Armoogam believes that each is an important part of supporting MSW students in light of the new curriculum. With the first request already met, Armagoom hopes this will be an ongoing discussion that will result in a curriculum that more closely mirrors the old one. Her main concern, however, is making sure that all students can take the classes they need the most and still graduate on time.

“My hope is that they recognize that students are participants in the program,” Armoogam said. “For us to not have a say in our organization and how it’s run is a shame.”

Corrections: This article previously mispelled Amanda Armoogam’s name as Armagoom. It also stated Provost Michael Quick was present at the meeting. He was not. The Daily Trojan regrets the errors.