Queen's reputation needs maintenance, not complacency

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The now infamous course “Taylor Swift’s Literary Legacy” is running this semester through the Queen’s English department. Though extremely popular with students, the course has drawn criticism from academics as a waste of time and resources.

The Faculty of Arts and Science, Queen’s largest faculty, saw its budget cut this school year while funding for the Faculty of Health Science and the Smith School of Business increased significantly. This large discrepancy in budget allocation across faculties at Queen’s is problematic.

While critics of the new Taylor Swift course have complained that scarce departmental resources could be better used, they shouldn’t be so limited to begin with that developing courses students will actually enjoy sparks controversy. 

It’s easy to dismiss “Taylor Swift’s Literary Legacy” as illegitimate, but it’s an accessible foray into literary study for students who might not otherwise take English courses. We should prioritize student engagement and quality of instruction over ‘legitimate’ subject matter.

Whether or not you think a course on Taylor Swift’s cultural and literary impact is a sound investment, students respond well to courses that cater to their interests. 

Considering Queen’s recent struggles with student engagement, it’s a valuable addition to the course catalogue. Attracting students with specialized courses is also strategic business. 

Many ArtSci students feel little effort goes into course development and instruction. Low student engagement is an issue the University has struggled to address, especially after learning went online in spring 2020 due to the pandemic. 

Queen’s has gotten away with resting on the laurels of its well-established reputation for a long time. However, with how enrollment is increasing, this complacency isn’t sustainable.

The Quality Assurance Process is in place to ensure programs meet a set standard. However, many Arts and Science departments don’t meet regulations set out by the program, yet Queen’s isn’t investing in a solution. 

The University should consider how it can maintain its high academic standard while accommodating such a rapidly growing student population. Taking on more people than they can manage will lead to a decline in the quality of student experience and academics.  

Digital learning is not the answer; the format is often used as an excuse for professors to underperform while students pay to teach themselves. Queen’s should be alarmed by how many of its students feel the institution cares more about selling them degrees than providing a high quality education.

We should re-evaluate the status quo in of running academics. Students need an institution open to alternative pedagogical methods, one that allows instructors agency and flexibility in developing courses to create a better learning experience.

Instructors who invest time and effort into making their courses engaging and representative deserve more recognition than they get.

So far, efforts to increase representation and incorporate Equity Diversity Inclusion and Indigeneity (EDII) into Queen’s academics have largely come across as insincere. Specialty courses designed to fulfill an EDII agenda are often taught by faculty members who lack relevant lived experience.

It can be frustrating to see a name like Taylor Swift in a course title given Queen’s lack of diverse subject matter in course syllabi, among faculty, and in their offered catalogue. 

Among celebrities, her whiteness is pronounced, and she represents a greater trend of underrepresentation in academia. However, having engaged instructors and courses students like is just as important as teaching ‘legitimate’ subjects and superficial EDII initiatives. 

From the outside, Queen’s looks like an institution that prioritizes all the right things, but there are fundamental issues that need addressing if it wants to remain prestigious. 

Before the University takes on more students than its resources can accommodate, it should start actively maintaining the reputation it relies on to attract them. 

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