Editorial: How to improve the second year experience

By The News-Letter | September 29, 2016

In an email sent to the Class of 2019 on Aug. 26, the University announced the introduction of a Second-Year Experience (SYE) Program with the goal of easing the difficulties of sophomore year.

So far, the SYE Program has offered a few community bonding events like a barbecue and a brunch, but the program’s assistant director, Aaron Rutledge, has not yet  outlined specific ways for the program to address the problems faced by sophomores.

The Editorial Board recognizes that the heightened responsibilities and academic challenges of sophomore year make it more intensive and stressful than freshman year. We commend the University for their initiative in creating the SYE Program and appreciate the administration’s attention to student concerns and willingness to take measures to address them.

However, trying to replicate the support of freshman year for sophomores is not the right solution. It transfers agency away from students and onto the University.

The Editorial Board believes sophomores should instead receive more specialized assistance.

Rather than planning community-building events like lunches, we think the SYE Program should focus more on addressing students’ mental health and academic concerns  by connecting them with campus resources such as the Counseling Center and Career Center.

While we do acknowledge that community building is vital, it could be better facilitated by giving more responsibility and autonomy to RAs, who interact directly with students and can better understand their preferences.

Furthermore, to genuinely help sophomores, the University should try to understand what the “sophomore slump” really means. The difficulty level of classes increases significantly between freshman and sophomore year, which the Editorial Board believes directly contributes to the increased stress experienced by sophomores. So far, the SYE Program has offered only non-academic support.

The Editorial Board suggests adding upper-level classes to already existing academic support systems like Learning Den and PILOT. Introducing larger upper level classes like Organic Chemistry, Differential Equations and Nervous Systems, which have high sophomore enrollment, to these support systems would both create student employment and increase accessibility to academic aid resources.

Though Organic Chemistry does have a PILOT session, it is only available to the freshman section. Sophomores can access autoPILOT, which is a version of PILOT run by students currently in the class, but the Editorial Board does not believe this is enough.

The Editorial Board does, however, appreciate the effort of SYE Program Assistant Director Rutledge. As a new employee who is fairly unfamiliar with how Hopkins works, he has been receptive to student feedback on how to improve the sophomore experience. We urge students to continue giving as much feedback as possible to help Rutledge provide more effective support in the future.

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