Wintersession has been a staple at Wellesley College for decades and is known for giving students the ability to explore educational opportunities from study abroad to skill building workshops. However, after Wintersession in January 2022 was moved online due to spikes in COVID-19 and growing concern over the timeline of the College’s multiple planned renovations, many students are concerned that the college will cancel it entirely.
The number of courses offered during Wintersession has declined steadily over the years: in 2007 the college offered over 20 Wintersession courses, in 2023 the College plans to offer just nine. These limited course offerings have decreased enrollment; however, current Wintersession courses are still essential to many departments. This is particularly true for foreign language departments, which offer a majority of winter courses.
Some of these courses allow students to study abroad where they can improve their language skills and knowledge of different cultures while earning credits. Bella Knaz-Jung ’24 wished to take SPAN 285 over Wintersession, a class that allows students to study abroad in Barcelona while earning credit. However, the class had limited availability, and with the loss of Wintersession looming overhead, she is disappointed that she might never get the chance: “The College was the one who let the building get this bad and the students are the ones who have less opportunities.”
Professor Carlos Ramos, who has been teaching SPAN 258 since 2003, said that the class allows students the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the culture and language which often students can’t accomplish during a normal semester: “when I teach any of my classes, I know that my students have at least three other classes, maybe a sport or job on campus, but when we are there thats everything that we do (…) it’s an absolute luxury of an academic experience.”
Wintersession also offers a last chance for many students to earn credits. When Wintersession in 2022 was moved online due to public health concerns, the Russian department was forced to cancel the RUSS 101 course as the curriculum could not be adjusted to virtual learning given the last minute change. RUSS 101 is one of the few introductory language courses that offers credit without subsequently taking RUSS 102. This left many students who relied on that credit very frustrated, and though the issue was said to be resolved through the Academic Review Board, it demonstrates the number of students who rely on Wintersession in order to complete their degree in four years.
“It is so important for people who get into the department later,” Elizabeth Ray ’24, who is currently majoring in Russian and working in the Russian department, said. She expressed that Wintersession allows older students to become involved in departments further into their time at Wellesley College. By limiting Wintersession courses, the College would limit the ability for students to discover new areas of interest.
Currently, the College has made no official decision regarding the cancellation of Wintersession. According to Provost and Dean of the College Andrew Shennan:
“No decision has been made to cancel Wintersession after this year or to introduce new limits to course offerings. For some time the College has been considering changes to the spring semester calendar in order to ensure sufficient time each summer to accomplish major renovations of our residence halls (a multi-year process that began last summer in Severance). While we can’t rule out the possibility that this will affect Wintersession, we are exploring other alternatives that will enable us to continue offering Wintersession programs.”
Despite this clear statement, many students have heard conflicting reports as to the status of Wintersession from professors and their peers. This mixed messaging has left students frustrated and the path forward still unclear:
“Wellesley has been in conversation with professors and departments about this, but has been keeping students in the dark,” Jung ’24 said.