April 4, 2011

Hotel Students Protest Core Curriculum Change

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About 40 students gathered silently outside a Hotel School faculty meeting Monday in protest of the faculty’s recent decision to change Hotel Administration 3305: Restaurant Management from a required core class to an elective.

The faculty voted in favor of the change in the weeks leading up to spring break, but due to a groundswell of support in favor of the class remaining part of the core curriculum, the Hotel School faculty met Monday for a presentation by food and beverage professors. The faculty will re-vote on the issue later this week.

Opponents said they saw this curriculum revision as evidence of a larger shift in the Hotel School’s academic culture, which they said has become increasingly focused on business and management, rather than applied and operational learning in the field of hospitality.

“The whole point of going to the Hotel School is to learn the whole industry,” said Sarah Wickham ’11, a student in the Hotel School who is a former teaching assistant for HADM 3305 and the organizer of the rally. “We value our education because of unique classes like [Restaurant Management].”

The change was one of three approved by the faculty in an effort to “provide the increase in program flexibility you felt was important to individualizing your studies,” according to an email from Dean Michael Johnson to all Hotel School undergraduates. The first-year writing seminar requirement will be waived for some transfer students and Hotel Administration: 2275 Information Systems Management was changed from a full-semester, three-credit course to a seven-week, two-credit course.

Wickham highlighted other recent changes to the school’s requirements — including a decrease in the number of hours students are required to work at the Statler Hotel front desk and a housekeeping shift — that she said reflected the administration’s ongoing effort to push the curriculum in a new, more theoretical direction.

“The practical part of the Hotelie education has long been what sets us apart from other hospitality and business schools,” the Facebook event “Keep HA 3305 as a Hotel School Core Course,” created by Wickham, stated.

Several faculty members declined to comment before the meeting, deferring to administrators. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Steven A. Carvell declined to comment as well.

HADM 3305 is a time-consuming four-credit class, according to several students. In addition to lectures and reading, students enrolled in HADM 3305 are required to work four eight-hour shifts in a restaurant and complete two eight-hour “micro-restaurant” labs over the course of the semester.

Proponents of the change stressed that students usually take the class as juniors or seniors, after many have decided that they will not be concentrating on the operational side of the industry.

These students noted that the business and management courses offered in the Hotel School were becoming increasingly prominent as more graduates find work in those fields. According to the Post-Graduate Report provided by the Hotel School’s Student Services office, more than 40 percent of the Class of 2010 works in real estate, banking and financial services, consulting or with a hotel’s corporate headquarters. 14 percent of that class went on to work in a restaurant.

Additionally, some students expressed frustration with the application of the proposed change. They argued that, since the revision would take effect immediately, upperclassmen who avoided the classes will be exempted from taking it even though their classmates took it with the understanding that the class was required.

“For students who had planned out their schedules well in advance, it was kind of a shocking change to learn that it is no longer required,” said Graham Webster ’12, a student in the Hotel School. “Those students who haven’t taken the class who are juniors are not being held to the same standards as the students who had planned their schedules out and took it earlier. For students who are concentrating in a different part of the industry, they could have spent their time catering their classes to their interests or concentrations.”

Another student in the Hotel School, Peter Brogan ’13, noted that if HADM 3305 becomes an elective, as was originally decided, interested students will still be able to enroll.

“The people who still want to take it can,” he said. “The people who want to spend their short time at Cornell doing something applicable to their career interests can do so.”

Original Author: Keenan Weatherford