Shift in J-Term policy offers limited flexibility

A revision to January Term policy, by which only three J-Term classes are required instead of the original four, was announced on August 18 in the NYU ...

Aug 31, 2013

A revision to January Term policy, by which only three J-Term classes are required instead of the original four, was announced on August 18 in the NYU Abu Dhabi student portal.
J-Term classes are three-week courses offered in nearly all NYU's global network sites each year. They are characterized as an immersive experience by the NYUAD webpage, as courses interrelate with the course location. Last January, Introduction to Machiavelli was taught at NYU Florence, where Machiavelli worked during the Renaissance. The course included a trip to Machiavelli's birthplace and place of exile. While J-Term class has been a mandatory fixture every year for NYUAD students, it is only optional for NYU New York students.
With the policy change, students can still choose to take four J-Term classes, with up to two classes abroad. Upperclassmen may opt to miss the J-Term class this coming January, but freshmen are required to take a 2014 J-Term class.
Carol Brandt, associate vice chancellor for global education and outreach, explained that the policy change addresses academic needs of the growing student body.
"The number of students with calendar conflicts between the start of spring semester study away programs and end of J-Term will grow," said Brandt.
Students who had calendar conflicts with J-Term in the past had the option of making up credits in the summer. However, taking a class in the summer also created conflicts with other summer commitments, such as internships, volunteer work and research, said Brandt.
Senior Claudia Carrasco experienced such a conflict when she wanted to extend her winter break at home for family commitments. Carrasco asked to make up J-Term credits in the summer, but summer J-Term classes had stopped running by her second year at NYUAD. Carrasco's plans were disrupted by this policy change.
"At first they said that [extending my winter break is] feasible, but toward J-Term they said that they can't do it," said Carrasco.
Carrasco chose a J-Term class in Abu Dhabi, but the class was cancelled a week before it was supposed to begin. Upon receiving this news, Carrasco appealed again for more time at home, but she was placed into a different J-Term class. Carrasco found the class disappointing because it was very similar to another she had previously taken.
"It's frustrating because I felt like I took a course that didn't mean anything when I could have been home last year when I needed to," said Carrasco. The new policy change is not helpful to Carrasco because her senior year schedule is too busy to stay at home during J-Term.
Carrasco's difficulty with appealing to stay at home during J-Term was particularly frustrating to her in retrospect, as she noticed that J-Term policy became increasingly more flexible. Although Carrasco prefers the new policy, she found the change sudden, as students did not seem to be involved in a preliminary discussion.
Junior Laura Evans petitioned to spend J-Term at home for her grandmother's 50th birthday and her brother's wedding, and had a different experience than Carrasco.
"It was really important to me that I was able to go [home] and luckily the process was quite straightforward," said Evans. "I organised a meeting with the dean of students who was more than happy to help."
Evans welcomes the policy change, citing that winter break is short and students might need the time at home. As J-Term classes are not mandatory at NYUNY, the students commonly have longer winter breaks. The NYU webpage on J-Term classes suggests that the classes are designed to help with calendar conflicts and missing credits, explaining that semesters can be “overly hectic.” As J-Term classes are not a requirement at NYUNY and many other universities, Carrasco did not think that NYUAD should have been so strict with the original policy.
According to the website, "New York University's January Term allows students more flexibility and new scheduling options. NYU students, visiting students and international students have the opportunity to earn major/minor credit or explore a new interest."
Carrasco added that other seniors are disadvantaged by the policy change because they had made study abroad plans dependent on the former policy.
"Seniors don't have priority [for J-Term classes abroad] anymore with this policy change, so it's like you got robbed out of a J-Term," said Carrasco. To Carrasco, the policy change is another disadvantage in the number of academic policy changes that seniors have experienced in their four years at NYUAD. Carrasco's academic plan was disrupted, for example, when Brain and Cognitive Science was no longer available as a major.
However, Carol Brandt explained that the J-Term policy change could be useful to seniors.
"We also anticipate an increasing number of students wanting to use their senior J-Term period to pursue intensive research or production in the arts for their capstones," said Brandt. She added that the J-Term policy change does not affect NYUAD's strong commitment to global education for its students, as students are still able to take up to two J-Term classes abroad.
"Well, hopefully this means that I can spend those three weeks working just for my capstone," said senior Florencia Schlamp. "As I'm doing mostly lab work, being able to work on my project for three weeks straight without having to worry about classes would be really awesome."
Schlamp plans to explore that option with the science department. Meanwhile, other seniors are not affected by the policy change.
"I am planning on taking the fourth J-Term course regardless of whether or not it is a requirement, as I've had very good experiences with them in the past," said senior Juan Felipe Beltran.
Applications for 2014 J-Term classes are due in October. Information sessions on J-Term policy will take place throughout September and are mandatory for freshmen.
Joey Bui is news editor. Email her at
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