For curious students, too many institutional road blocks

Visit Emerson.edu, and you will see the caption, “opportunity surrounds Emerson students.” I remember reading these words my senior year of high school as they appeared under videos of students touting the merits of the school, attempting to persuade prospective students to apply. I won’t entirely disagree with the statement. However, as my first semester comes to a close, I have become disillusioned with the accessibility of the academic resources — from renting equipment to registering for classes, that accompany being a Lion — and I believe many should be less elusive.

My original frustration at the exclusivity of opportunity offered at Emerson came on the first day of one of my classes. For the past semester I have been enrolled in Literature of Photography, a class that relies heavily on writing and photo assignments, respectively. On the first day of class our professor said that to complete our assignments we would need access to a camera and photo editing software.

Having neither of these, I stayed behind after class to ask my professor about the types of photo editing software that we would need and whether I should go to the Equipment Distribution Center (EDC) to attempt to rent a camera — one that would be far superior to my iPhone camera. I was informed that, generally, students who were enrolled in this class were not permitted to rent the Single-Lens Reflex film cameras offered at the center because this particular class is in the Institute and not the Visual and Media Arts or the Journalism departments.

I decided to check out the EDC on the off chance there had been a policy change or that I had, perhaps, been misinformed. As it turns out, my professor was completely correct in the center’s policies that allow students (mainly VMA and Journalism) to rent equipment. I left the counter annoyed, knowing that I would have no opportunity this semester to produce the same quality photos as some of the SLR owners in my class.

I’ve heard similar complaints from other students who have been denied the right to rent certain pieces of equipment that are, for all intents and purposes, a necessity for their eduction. Through some of these disgruntled conversations, I have also come to realize another popular issue that is vexing many of the freshmen — difficulty in exploring any field in any major beyond their own.

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In conversations with fellow freshmen I have casually made remarks about interest in learning more about screenwriting and film — and my desire to take classes in those areas. These comments have consistently been met with agreement and a strong sense of frustration at the current inability for a student in one major to explore diverse interests in another without tremendous hassle.

It’s a known fact that Emerson students are a rare breed. During my senior year of high school, I took a tour of Emerson during which I was told that only roughly one percent of students enter the school undecided; there’s scant room for indecision in this environment. Students enter the college knowing these facts and, generally, having a strong inclination about what their future career plans are. That said, we are all still students, we are all still young, and we are all still susceptible to having our eyes opened to new interests and desires to explore areas beyond our niches. Our desires to broaden our horizons should be met with enthusiasm, not with students considering completely changing their majors because they feel trapped.

Many would argue that extracurricular activities fill the gap where academia fails. However, when nearly every organization fills their positions through interviews and rigorous application processes, it can be difficult to casually dabble or try something new on a whim. Further, if a student is ready to commit to a new pursuit and begins filling out an application, what do they put down when asked for his or her qualifications and experience? Surely, he or she could list their enthusiasm and ability to learn quickly as assets, but when considering the situation from a hiring position, qualification is almost always paramount.

The situation is complicated. With only a finite amount of funds for classes and activities, those who are majoring in their respective fields will have their choice of classes and the best of the best will attain the desired positions in any club and organization. Such is fair and such is life. Perhaps, however, the school could make more of an effort to develop more minors that are, essentially, scaled down versions of some of the majors offered. Further, more extra-curriculars could be open to educating new comers before having them file a resume. I simply suggest that steps be taken to make the curricula and activities a little more accessible to the curious student.