The scholarship program has grown quickly over the last dozen or so years, so much so that it became necessary to purchase a computer program called STARS (Stars Online?). Unfortunately, employing STARS has been a case of fitting a “square peg into a round hole.” One difficulty evidently concerns entry of faculty letters of recommendation into the system.
That was bad enough. Then, very recently, it came to light that IVC’s scholarship system is possibly out of compliance with state and federal standards—specifically with regard to awarding scholarships to “protected classes.” The college received an 18-page legal opinion that lays out the issues. That was in early February (the district had received the opinion in December). The letter’s arrival sparked a mad scramble to tweak the computer program, yielding some recent snafus.
Nevertheless, we seem to have cobbled together a fix that allows us to move forward for now.
During yesterday’s Senate discussion, I questioned the purported “objectivity” of the process’s approach to the student essay, given that there is no mechanism for determining the accuracy of its “content.” (I also questioned whether essays can be read without regard to “style.”) My colleague, Melanie, also questioned the “content, not style” provision, noting that some students’ poor writing skills prevent them from adequately conveying their points. Others noted the difficulty of writing letters of recommendation without reference to the student’s sex (and other protected categories). Biologists at the meeting noted that they have received very few requests for letters from students this year.
Recognizing legal constraints, I nevertheless questioned the adequacy of such an approach. Some, during discussion, noted that faculty letters can compensate for inadequacies in student essays—e.g., stating relevant facts that students might fail to recognize as important.
In the end, a member of the cabinet motioned to assemble a task force (housed under the Academic Affairs committee) to overhaul the entire process. The senate supported the motion unanimously.
That, I think, is a good outcome.
Naturally, the product of that overhaul will come too late to apply to this year’s process. (I wish to thank Melanie H, whose notes formed the basis of some of the above.)