With debate over changes to Map of the Modern World, a required School of Foreign Service undergraduate course, revived last week after the release of the results of an exemption examination, an independent student task force is poised to review the syllabus changes.

Sixty-five students passed the exemption exam – a large increase from years past – and many others nearly passed, according to Josh Mogil (SFS ’11), vice president of the SFS Academic Council. The passage rate has renewed criticism of syllabus changes made by Dean James Reardon-Anderson, director of the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service program.

The SFS Academic Council has voiced its concerns to Carol Lancaster, interim dean of the SFS. Mogil said he is launching an independent student task force, not endorsed by the Dean’s Office, that will be charged with compiling student and faculty opinions as well as recommendations for the course’s content.

ogil intends to present the task force’s conclusions to the Dean’s Office and Reardon-Anderson by the end of the fall semester.

“We will provide thoughtful recommendations for what type of Map class would best serve the SFS student body,” Mogil said. “We look forward to working with the Dean’s Office on this initiative and believe that at a university, a reasoned discussion must prevail.”

Former SFS students have joined the discussion of the syllabus changes. Frank Vargas (SFS ’06) said that he appreciates the efforts to update the Map of the Modern World curriculum but is wary of any loss of academic rigor.

“Reardon-Anderson’s attempts to update the course are commendable, but it’s important to ensure that the class still fulfills its original objectives . teaching students about the key pieces of political geography that help define modern international relations,” Vargas said. “It was so hard to exempt from the old version of Map because most students didn’t already know the information covered in the class.”

Vargas said he is concerned that the new curriculum will provide students with only a “minimum acceptable level of knowledge of political geography.”

The principal concern emerging from the release of the exemption exam results is that the new curriculum is significantly easier. The exemption examination is administered each fall, and if passed, offers credit for the course.

The Facebook group “Take Back Map of the Modern World,” created by Tom Zuzelo (SFS ’11), currently has 713 members. Some students who have taken the course have said on the Facebook group that new students stand to miss out on a defining SFS experience and have used the exemption exam results to support their arguments.

“I feel vindicated by the results and comments from the test-takers; this is clearly a watered-down version of our treasured Map class,” Mogil said. “It has emboldened students to work harder on behalf of all the SFS students, alumni and even professors that are clamoring for a fair review process about this unilateral change.”

Reardon-Anderson noted that the failure rate on the exemption exam exceeded 80 percent.

“The range of grades on the exam was between one and 96 correct answers out of 100 questions, and over 80 percent of those who took the exam failed,” Reardon-Anderson said.

“The only answer as to why the number of passes was so high is that the exam was too easy, and if that is the problem, there is an easy and obvious remedy.”

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