It appears we’ve found an outlier to the old proverb that insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a positive outcome. Drexel University has long been maligned for the way it schedules its curriculum. Not only does the quarter system give a stronger dose of the same academic pressure that all college students face onto Drexel students, but these negative effects extend outside of schoolwork.
Any student who has taken summer term courses can attest that they, during a time of the year usually attributed to relaxation, are left feeling strangely out of balance. With their hometown friends already enjoying their break for well over a month before Drexel freshmen are freed from their academic duties, it is easy for them to feel like the odd one out. This feeling would still be preferred to those appearing at summer’s end, when the rising sophomores see themselves left behind by their friends to a period of isolation and restlessness in late September before they return to school in Philadelphia. It’s certainly no easy task to readapt to the rapid pace of life at Drexel, and the structuring of the summer term doesn’t do students many favors in that regard.
After recognizing the insanity that Drexel repeats, it’s time to examine how that poor planning is reframing itself as a stroke of ingenuity. With the unrelenting advance of COVID-19 affecting all aspects of life, it will be immensely difficult to even begin the process of reopening the major parts of the American education system. As much as we college students are all clamoring for our respective campuses, there’s just no way of knowing whether universities across the country will be able to open their doors within a timeframe that lines up with their usual calendars.
Herein lies a surprising advantage that Drexel holds over its contemporaries in dealing with the situation. The late start date will play an important role in getting a university that has to accommodate over 15,000 students to return to full operating capacity smoothly. Love or hate the late start, it’s an unlikely convenience that could help open campus on time in the fall.
Like most collegiate bookstores, Drexel’s outpost of textbooks, spirit wear and other curriculum essentials relies on its supplies from the Barnes & Noble retail chain. With the bookseller expecting to readjust their shipping and receiving materials from colleges nationwide in the fall, Drexel’s added time off might allow them to observe the new correspondence between universities and retailers and learn to better it when they re-enter the fold.
Drexel programs that often don’t receive the attention they should, such as the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement or the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, are especially expected to benefit from the delay in returning to their scheduled activities. These are programs that find their lifeline in the city of Philadelphia and are centerpieces of John Fry’s stated mission to make Drexel the nation’s most civically engaged university. Governor Tom Wolf’s talks of getting the city back to its pre-virus state point to a very mediated, phased approach of achieving this goal. Even so, sites like the Lindy and Dornsife Centers will have the vantage point of seeing how long it takes for Philadelphia to rouse itself, and so will be able to determine which of their own programs they’ll be able to implement again. Drexel will always thrive so long as the city it inhabits does, and students should offer the administration a rare pat on the back, even if these newfound positives weren’t entirely intentional.
It’s rare that Drexel students count their blessings, but in this instance, we’ll give it a shot. While no one is certain what to expect when our doors open for the fall term, it stands to reason that we have better odds than other schools with an earlier start. It’s safe to say that most students, especially newly admitted ones, are eager to reengage with college life after summer. For once, our uncomfortably-late start is a comforting detail.