Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

Don’t Super-Size Fletcher

The phrase ‘Fletcher Community’ is so often bandied about the plywood-sheathed halls of our beloved school that it has reached the level of self-parody. And yet our community connections are our core asset. As one of the smaller schools of foreign policy, far from any Seats of Power (or, for that matter, Clubs Worth Dressing Up For) the fact is that here, like castaways on a desert island, we are more than fellow students: we’re friends. These ties that calcify into the Fletcher Mafia are, as much as the great new knowledge and skillz packed into our collective crania, the most important things with which we will leave Medford.

However, Fletcher’s gettin’ fatter. Last year the now second-years had 183 enter with them; this fall 200 arrived. This bulking-up presents a great risk. You cannot dilute the Fletcher Secret Formula by 10% a year indefinitely without reaching a point where it no longer works its magic.

It appears that the leadership of the school is convinced that bigger is simply better. When questioned by the Student Council on this topic, the Deans reported that problems of overstuffed classes could be attributed to scheduling issues and construction, not the added students. Further, faculty are being added faster still, and as such the student/teacher ratio is improving. That may be true and welcome, but it dodges the primary concern. Columbia’s SIPA, at over 850 students, is a different place than the Fletcher we know and love – and a place that we all chose to avoid.

Apart from making the student body less cohesive, expansion has long-run costs easily overlooked in the rush to bank the cool $30 grand each extra student brings to the school each year. More students need more and bigger classrooms; more faculty need more offices. More administrative staff are required to handle the work, which porks up the school size yet again. Adding programs such as the MSIM may be very wise choices, but need not increase the overall student body, since fewer entering MALDs could cancel the addition of the newcomers.

Of course, if Fletcher continues expanding at these prodigious rates, it will doubtless remain an institution of the highest order, academically preparing future leaders for their roles around the globe. It just might be that these leaders aren’t friends, and that would be a great loss.

The Editors (all MALD 07) have bonded sufficiently they need a very large tube of solvent. Hurry, please.

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