Unsupervised in American Studies

Roughly 21 American Studies bachelor students found out that they did not have a thesis advisor. The ratio of students to professors is too imbalanced.

Wil Verhoeven, chair of the American Studies department, says: ‘As I understand it, circa 46 students are covered, and we are looking for a solution for the others as we speak.’ There are 67 students in total who are in various stages of writing their thesis, which means that 21 students are currently lacking a supervisor.

There are only two lecturers in the department at the moment who are advising the theses: professors Tim Jelfs and Amanda Gilroy. They cannot take on any more students because they are both already responsible for more students than is advisable to ensure quality supervision. There are also two faculty members who serve as second graders for quality control.

Growing numbers

‘The only problem that we have is one that we don’t have any control over: a staff-to-student ration of 1 to 58,’ Verhoeven says. The programme has been faced with issues as a result of the growing number of students enrolling, such as guaranteeing exchanges for the students in the United States.

One rumour that had been circulating was that the American Studies bachelor students would have to find their own supervisor as a result of the situation. Verhoeven says that is not the case. ‘The last thing we want is for the students to suffer from the work overload we are experiencing, or for the excellent quality of our BA theses to drop.’

The Studentenkrant had reported that the American Studies Curriculum Committee had asked to make more full-time equivalent hours available back in January. Verhoeven says that’s not true, but ‘they did notify the department board of the problem. Since department boards cannot create ftes, it was obliged to make the problem known to the Faculty administration, which it did.’

Verhoeven said that he was informed on Wednesday morning that ‘a solution to the work overload has been proposed by the Office for Student Affairs. I need to study the details but it looks as if funds are going to be reallocated to address the current problem.’