Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

It’s time to reform RAPs at UMass

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

With nearly 30,000 students, it’s safe to say that the University of Massachusetts is a pretty big school. Some people seek out large state schools because they offer the experience they’re looking for, yet others like myself might prefer a smaller school but end up attending UMass for other reasons.

UMass offers several programs meant to address the issues first-year students like myself face during the transition to college, and make a big campus feel like a small community. One of these programs is the Peer Mentor program, which I’ve already written about in a previous column. But the primary way UMass hopes to bring a small-school feel to our campus is through Residential Academic Programs, known as RAPs.

The University hopes to inspire students to join a RAP, so they’re promoted at orientation and during campus tours. The idea behind a RAP is that students with similar interests are housed together and take a class together, thus fostering friendships and community. The program also helps provide a smooth transition to college life, inform about campus resources and promote General Education curriculum goals. In some cases, this is a success.

The BioTAP RAP on the floor above me isn’t perfect, but it has managed to group together many students who have an interest in biology, share classes and have overlapping coursework.

Whatever complaints I have heard about BioTAP, I would say that it’s successful in accomplishing what RAPs are meant to achieve. Some people say that it’s “cliquey,” and while that word holds a negative connotation, I think it says something about the potential RAPs have to form a cohesive unit of students.

On the other hand, my experience with the Current Events Honors RAP has been a flop. The program is described as being for those looking for “flexibility” in their RAP, but really this RAP and the useless class associated with it should instead be labeled as “for those who want guaranteed honors housing.”

I could have forgone joining the RAP and avoided the class, but I, like every other student I have talked to in my RAP, was not willing to risk not getting my preferred housing in honors. This creates a problem. Because so much of the motivation to join Current Events is to secure housing, few join the RAP excited to participate in the one-credit seminar that comes tacked onto it. The already questionable purpose of this “Front Page Seminar” class is further perverted by the lack of interest of my classmates.

An even bigger issue with my RAP is the housing situation. Unlike, say, BioTAP, which has a whole floor, my floor has a couple Current Events dorms mixed in among a floor that is otherwise mostly engineering or nursing majors. The rest of the Current Events RAP students are spread throughout the upper levels of my building in similar fashion. Out of my whole class, there is only one other person who lives on the same floor as me.

Being spread throughout a building does not facilitate any interaction between students, let alone the formation of a community. I fail to see how this RAP is supposed to generate a feeling of community when I only see my classmates once a week for 50 minutes in a class that I struggle to find meaning for. The Front Page Seminars also vary so widely based on professors that I don’t even share any common ground with the few other students on my floor who are in my RAP but not in the same class as me.

The structure of the Current Events RAP has helped me see what makes an ineffective residential program. When you start with a class that doesn’t engage students, then segregate the students from each other by way of separate floor, you minimize the chances of anyone from the program actually socializing with each other.

Looking at the BioTAP RAP, which has a narrow area of focus, I’ve realized that the more specific a RAP is to a subject area, the more successful it will be at bringing students together. UMass should keep this in mind when designing future RAPs, or we should introduce a different way to secure housing that doesn’t involve being forced into a pointless class.

Amelia Moran is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *