Over the summer, directors at McGill’s Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture in the Faculty of Engineering developed a new core curriculum for their BSc students. The curriculum changes had unintended consequences for the School’s U2 cohort, whose members were faced with a decision this August: Take 20 credits in one semester this fall or otherwise extend their time at McGill by an extra semester.
U2 Architecture students told The McGill Tribune that they were blindsided when their schedules were swapped with a 20-credit prescription of new and pre-existing courses. If a student opted to take a normal course load, they could, but it would come at the cost of extending their degree by an entire semester.
A student hoping to stay on track with their expected graduation time would have to adopt a schedule consisting of an intensive, six-credit architecture studio, four departmental courses, and a sketching class. This regimen exceeds the 18-credit limit recognized by the School’s own Program Advising Handbook, which requires “special permission” for students who wish to surpass it.
Riley*, one of the affected U2 Architecture students, sat down with the Tribune to talk about the alterations, noting what they thought was a lack of communication on the university’s part.
“The change was made very late, and we were not informed until after the registration date,” Riley said. “It is their responsibility to coordinate with us and the professors.”
The curriculum changes have shaken up the lives of architecture students, who, according to Riley, are given little wiggle room in choosing their courses as is.
Echoing a sentiment shared by many U2 students, Riley believes that the curriculum directors did not revamp the architecture program in a way that was considerate of their students’ well-being.
“McGill makes a lot of fuss about mental health, so we all thought that they would care more when we mentioned the situation, but all they did was relegate their responsibility,” Riley said.
The Architecture Student’s Association (ASA), which oversees both undergraduate and graduate affairs at the School of Architecture, claims they were not consulted during the restructuring of the curriculum.
“[We] did not receive an invitation to participate in discussions held by the curriculum committee that made modifications to course distributions this past summer,” the ASA wrote in an email to the Tribune.
The ASA is worried about the students impacted by the schedule change, seeing as how the semester has already passed its halfway point and the deadline to withdraw from classes has elapsed.
“[We have] exhausted everything within our powers to work internally with administration and faculty to address the weight of the U2 Fall curriculum,” the ASA wrote.
In Riley’s eyes, atonement is still possible.
“[McGill should] take some responsibility and just tell us, ‘we fucked up […] we tried to do this and it didn’t work,’” they said.
In a statement to the Tribune, Frédérique Mazerolle, a McGill media relations officer, claimed that the university has been accommodating in light of the situation.
“The School’s leadership has been checking in with students and faculty to address issues related to workload and finding ways to accommodate students,” Mazerolle wrote. “Students have access to several resources through Students Services, including the Student Wellness Hub, the Career Planning Service and Student Accessibility & Achievement. The university’s priority remains to ensure the success, well-being and safety of our students.”
*Riley’s name has been changed to preserve their anonymity.