When Bethel students pursue an independent course of learning, their advisor is not paid to help them.
By Alayna Hoy
Even with course catalogs, 4-year-plans and academic advising sessions, many Bethel students know the frustration and concern that come when a course needed to graduate isn’t offered when they need it, or worse, when Bethel doesn’t offer that course at all.
This semester alone, Bethel students are engaged in 16 independent studies across 11 departments. But, while students pursuing independent students pay for their regular course load and receive the credit they need, professors are not paid for helping them.
“While it is a budget constraint, that is not the only factor,” said Barrett Fisher, dean of arts and humanities.
“The need for a course by arrangement may be symptomatic of scheduling issues that should be addressed,” Fisher said. “The creation of a directed study may indicate a gap or a need a department’s curriculum.”
Though a larger solution to the problem may be adjusting Bethel’s scheduling or curriculum, professors express frustration when their time and effort is not reimbursed.
“I have no idea why this is the case, or how it has been allowed for all these years,” said Carrie Peffley, philosophy professor. “The fact that we are not paid for independent studies is baffling to me.”
Peffley teaches Latin II, a four-credit S-tag course, to two students this semester.
Most independent studies offered at Bethel are similar to Peffley’s: courses by arrangement for students who need the class but can’t take it at the scheduled time.
The other kind of independent study is a directed study, a course at the 400-level offered to students wanting to explore a particular topic to prepare for graduate school or to investigate some specific area of interest.
“An independent study is actually a fantastic way to learn, because it’s a student or two working with an instructor one on one,” Peffley said. “So it’s a bit more work for the instructor, and a great learning experience for the student.”
She makes a point to offer Latin II to students at Bethel who have completed Latin I, but can’t fit the next level into their schedule because the language is only offered every other year.
Still, other universities find a way to offer independent studies to students and to pay their professors for their efforts.
“We’re doing work for free and this really is taking advantage of faculty,” -Carrie Peffley, professor
“(Independent study) relies on faculty caring so much for the well-being of students that they’re willing to teach an extra course for no pay,” Peffley said. “And amazingly, many of us at Bethel do care very much for our students, so we’re willing to do it when necessary. But we are very cognizant that we’re doing work for free and this really is taking advantage of faculty.”