Registrar cracks down on ACTC language study

By Patricia Bass

Despite the rivalry and alleged cultural rift between Macalester and St Thomas, every weekday several Mac students travel the eight blocks to our neighboring college in order to take language classes. Taking language classes within the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities (ACTC) consortium has always been an option, but this year Macalester is becoming more strict with students who take language classes elsewhere for reasons other than schedule conflicts and full classes at Macalester.

“Last semester, I had no problem going from Spanish Two at Macalester to Spanish Four at St. Thomas,” Macalester student Ian Canary-King ’07 said. “I just turned in a form and nobody asked me why I wanted to do it.”

According to registrar Jayne Niemi, it is cases such as these that caused Macalester to start “cracking down” on cross-enlisting at consortium schools.

Currently, the policy states that students cannot enroll elsewhere if Macalester offers the same course, with exceptions for schedule problems and appropriate level classes. Now, the policy requires a meeting with the registrar, and in some cases the department chair of the subject the student wishes to take at another college. According to Niemi, this policy is implemented because “we have an agreement with the other colleges, and we try to honor it without taking advantage of one college in particular.”

“I try to be as reasonable as possible, but if it doesn’t sound like a student has a valid reason, then I refer them to the department chair for that class,” she said. “I don’t know what drives students [to other colleges], but it could be that the classes don’t have labs or they’re easier.”

According to the Registrar’s office, 45 students are taking language courses away from Macalester this semester, with 17 taking Arabic; 12, Spanish; six, American Sign Language; six, Italian; and one Spoken Modern Irish and Gaelic. Last spring, it was 48 students, with most students (24) taking Spanish, and Arabic and Sign Language attracting fewer students.

Although fewer students are taking Spanish elsewhere specifically because it is rumored to be easier, the lack of labs and smaller time and work commitment of the classes are still appreciated.

“The lack of a lab was definitely a big factor in me taking Spanish at St. Thomas,” Renata Limon ’07 said. “I have to work during the day and Mac doesn’t have night classes for languages and they require labs.”

Canary-King agreed that the St. Thomas Spanish class was significantly easier in both time commitment and work than at Macalester.

“Just the fact that I could skip from Spanish Two to Spanish Four, and I was not a very good Spanish student to begin with, shows the difference,” he said. “One Spanish teacher at St. Thomas even made his final an English essay on an English movie.”

Although he acknowledges that there is “a problem of equivalence” between other consortium schools’ language levels and ours, Hispanic Studies Chair Toni Dorca has yet to run into a student whose explicit excuse was that they wanted an easier language class.

“Is it my obligation to investigate the students?” Dorca said. “How could I? We [department heads] are given too much power to decide, and all we can do is use common sense.”

Students who take classes in the consortium because Macalester does not offer the language they want have an easier time getting the permission of the registrar and enrolling in classes. Students attend classes at Hamline for Chinese and Italian, St. Kate’s for American Sign Language, and St. Thomas for Arabic. Other schools tend to send students to Macalester for the Japanese program.

There are other issues involved in taking outside courses besides registration. It is difficult to enroll in second semester classes at other schools since the spring calendar is different at each school, with Macalester ending earlier than most. For graduating seniors, it could affect when they receive their diploma or finding housing post-graduation as well, not to mention the issue of transportation between schools.

Jake Bell ’08 makes the commitment to bike twenty minutes to Hamline three days a week.

“It’s not so bad,” he said. “Taking an Italian class is worth it, but next year, Hamline is discontinuing it and the only school in Minnesota offering Italian will be the U.