When Lily Sayre (23Ox) entered Oxford College as a freshman this fall, she planned on pursuing a psychology and creative writing double major. Oxford told her it wasn’t feasible.
Had she been on the Atlanta campus, majoring in psychology and creative writing, two of Emory’s most popular and well-known majors, would have never posed an issue. But a mere 37 miles down the road at Oxford, life is not so simple.
“I was told Oxford doesn’t offer enough psychology and creative classes to offer the double major because I would have to take a ton of psychology and creative writing [courses] in my two years in Atlanta and wouldn’t be able to knock out requirements while I was here,” Sayre said. “I had to change my major.”
While Oxford offers numerous benefits that main campus students do not receive, such as more intimate classes and a heavier emphasis on the liberal arts, they lack important resources. Students struggle with access to needed classes, which in turn stifles opportunities such as study abroad, early graduation or even fulfilling major requirements. Cut off from the Atlanta campus, Oxford students have little chance to cross-register across campuses. When they do, shuttles run infrequently, if at all.
This fall, students at Oxford protested the inequities in course registration, lack of courses and small class sizes.
“We had inadequate resources despite the fact that they had the entire semester to prepare for the next registration cycle,” Olu Abitogun (23Ox), a first-year Student Government Association legislator and one of the leaders of the protest, said. “One of the appeals of Oxford is that we are supposed to have small liberal arts classes … however, when those classes are only capped at 25 students … it feels like [Oxford’s] small liberal arts class experience is more of a hindrance than a benefit.”
Several students also indicated that access to courses was so limited that they were left as part-time students after registration. While Emory did add additional courses for the spring semester, the issues with course registration and offerings persisted into registration for next fall.
In an April 14 statement to The Wheel, Dean for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Kenneth Anderson and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Joanne Brzinski said “Emory is committed to providing the best possible undergraduate education both on the Atlanta campus and at Oxford. Oxford offers students a unique Emory experience where they are immersed in small liberal arts classes, with unparalleled access to professors and signature programs.” “Most Oxford students complete their General Education Requirements (GERs) during their time on campus, allowing them to focus on their chosen area of study once they transition to the Atlanta campus,” Dean for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Kenneth Anderson and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Joanne Brzinski added. For certain majors, this system proves difficult.
Notably, Oxford offers few psychology classes compared to the Atlanta campus and only two creative writing workshops, only one of which can count toward the Creative Writing major even if both are taken (majors need five workshops to graduate) and few 300 level courses in any subject. Even with a single major in Creative Writing, Sayre faces a system that only works against her. With a severe lack of creative writing workshops at Oxford, she must cross-register with the Atlanta campus to fill the requirements.
Even then, Oxford students can only cross-register for one course a semester. Accessibility becomes a further issue, as shuttles from Oxford to Atlanta only run at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 10 p.m.
“If I wound up doing fiction writing at the Atlanta campus, it’s a 2:30-5:30 p.m. class, so I’d have to shuttle down at 10 am or 1 pm and leave at 10 pm because there are no options to get back before then,” Sayre said.
It is not unusual for Oxford shuttles to run 45 minutes late, making it impossible for students to get to the Atlanta campus much less get there in time for a class. Sometimes, the shuttles don’t come at all. While Oxford students are allowed to have cars on campus, owning a car is a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. These are roadblocks many students were unaware of before coming to Oxford, and they harm students’ larger Emory experience.
Unlike the main campus, Oxford has additional liberal arts requirements, such as the Experiential Learning courses (designated with an “E”) and Ways of Inquiry courses (designated with a “Q”). The limited course catalog combined with extra general education requirements (GERs) leaves students scrambling to finish their requirements in time. The “E” requirement in particular has very few and very niche classes that fall under it. For the fall of 2022, classes with the E designation include a 200-level theater practicum class, intermediate Spanish, biology with a lab, a four-hour drawing class and a writing center practicum class. All these classes are inaccessible to most students, as they either require prerequisites, experience or are difficult to build a class schedule around. With Oxford’s limited class sizes, these courses, when accessible, can be unreasonably difficult to get into, according to students.
Though the change will not come in time for current Oxford students, Emory is working towards expanding the number of E courses offered. “In recent years, Oxford has hired additional faculty and added courses,” Dean for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Kenneth Anderson and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Joanne Brinzki said. “Oxford continues to increase the number of Experiential Learning Courses (E-courses), a model that is being adapted for undergraduates in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences (ECAS) as part of the new GERs going into effect in fall 2023 for new ECAS students.”
“We have to do our education in two years, so if we don’t get something, it’s a really big deal because we cannot graduate,” Camille Zats (23Ox) said.
For students who wish to graduate early or study abroad, Oxford’s rigid graduation requirements smother yet another opportunity. Students who want to study abroad while they are at Oxford have to fulfill all the requirements they would need to graduate. In other words, students cannot go abroad until they finish all of their GER courses, which they often cannot get into given Oxford’s lack of course offerings.
“My summer plans rely on whether I’m going to study abroad … and it’s really stressful because I need to make plans now,” Zats, who is currently a first-year, said.
Back in Atlanta, students can study abroad at any time in their Emory careers. Why worry when you have four years to fill requirements and a plethora of classes to fill them with? That’s a far cry from reality at Oxford where first years recently registered for Fall 2022 classes..
“I wasn’t able to get that E-course,” Zats said. “If I don’t get that course, I can’t study abroad.”
“Even though the story of ‘one Emory’ is supposed to mean that it includes everyone even if you’re not part of main campus, it felt as though we were being treated as second-rate,” Abitogun said.
Choosing Oxford shouldn’t doom students to second-class status. They deserve access to all of the academic resources necessary to thrive.
For starters, Oxford should waive the “E” requirement since they currently don’t have the resources or classes to support it. There’s precedent to do so. For Oxford’s class of 2022, administrators waived the requirement because online learning restricted students’ ability to gain real-life experiences outside the classroom according to Zats.
“This requirement was originally instituted to put a community engagement type of aspect into our education, which sounds great in theory, but if Oxford doesn’t have the resources to offer it to everyone, it is unreasonable for them to make it a graduation requirement,” Zats said.
To improve academic access, administrators also need to increase the frequency of Oxford-Emory shuttles, add more sections of high-demand classes and end the one-course cap on cross-registration. Spots go unfilled every semester in Atlanta campus courses. Why not let Oxford students fill them?
Finally, Oxford students deserve transparency from their university. Incoming students should be made aware that, at least as it currently stands, Emory and Oxford are not the same school. If Oxford students will not be able to pursue the same majors, access the Atlanta campus through Emory transportation or study abroad with the same amount of ease, Emory must tell them. Oxford students are not privy to the same privileges their peers in Atlanta are afforded, and Emory shouldn’t pretend they are.
Oxford tells incoming students that it’s “a place like no other,” which is correct. At Emory, Oxford really is a place financially, rhetorically and blatantly neglected like no other. From course registration to major requirements, its students at Oxford are routinely deprived of opportunities that Atlanta campus students take for granted.
“It felt as if Oxford was just the second campus where they could keep us here and hope for the best,” Abitogun said. “Like ‘oh, we’ll just drop you here and forget about you.’”
“I know one of the biggest concerns of students here is that ‘they probably view us as being dumb,’ or ‘they probably view us as Oxford being our only option because we couldn’t get into anywhere else,’” Abitogun added. “It felt as though that was being perpetuated by the lack of resources.”
Next year, a new batch of students will enter Oxford. Like Sayre, they will want to double major. Like Zats, they will want to study abroad. And like all Oxford students, they will want and deserve the world-class education Emory provides. Though it may be too late for Sayre, Zats, Abitogun and the Oxford students in their year, it isn’t for the students that come after them. Until then, Emory remains an institution that continues to only serve its student body in Atlanta, while Oxford remains forgotten.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Rachel Broun, Jake Busch, Kyle Chan-Shue, Demetrios Mammas, Daniela Parra del Riego Valencia, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas, Chaya Tong and Leah Woldai.
If you would like to see more Oxford stories in The Wheel and are interested in writing an op-ed, contact Opinion Editors Sophia Peyser at [email protected], Chaya Tong at [email protected] or Editorial Board Editor Demetrios Mammas at [email protected].
This article was updated on April 14, 2022 at 4:26 pm with comment from the University