London Program terminated, students disappointed

by Mike Disman / Beacon Staff • December 8, 2011

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Students voice concerns over the termination of the London Summer Program. Pictured above is the clock tower of Parliament commonly known as Big Ben.
Students voice concerns over the termination of the London Summer Program. Pictured above is the clock tower of Parliament commonly known as Big Ben.

Maureen McDermott said she was excited about the prospect of living in London for a month this summer, eager to become immersed in theater and British culture.

McDermott would have earned two 400 level literature credits, as 11 Emerson students had last year through Emerson’s study abroad program in London.

However, her enthusiasmturned to disappointment when she learned the trip had been cancelled, as college administrators look East to a new program in China.

“It’s frustrating for WLP students,” said the junior writing, literature, and publishing and marketing communication double major. “Writing and literature is such a worldly topic, it’s ironic that we’re the people who have to sit in Boston and watch the other majors go out and explore the world.”

The London study-abroad program offered theater and writing, literature, and publishing students a chance to live in Chelsea, England for a month. During the month, students engaged in cultural exploration, almost-daily theater experiences and the chance for upper-level writing, literature, and publishing students to earn credits in two high-level literature classes, “Shakespeare and His Contemporaries” and “London Theatre in Performance.”

The program’s cancelation has caused confusion and anger among WLP students, who feel that they are being ostracized from Emerson’s study-abroad opportunities.

Tierra Bonser, a senior theater major and one of the 11 students who participated in last year’s trip, said that she and her fellow students benefited from the vast amount of theater in the short time that they were in England.

“It was very fascinating to go see them like we did because we were steeped in it,” said Bonser. “The more you see, the more fine tuned your instrument becomes. I felt like we were at the top of our game because we were seeing so much theater in a row.” 

According to Christina Carlson, the WLP professor who organized the trip, the experience offered a chance for students to experience famous landmarks of theater that they could only read about in the United States.

“Seeing that much theater is amazing,” said Carlson. “Being able to explore other literary connections, the Brontes, Castle Howard, and Jane Austen, are unique experiences that you can’t get here in the United States. London theater is the best there is and it’s a great experience.”

The program, announced last year in a mass email to all WLP students, was introduced as a new opportunity, and many assumed that the program would continue into the foreseeable future, according to McDermott. Emerson has not issued a formal notification of the trip’s termination, which has misled many students. McDermott said that many of her friends are still planning on visiting London this summer. 

The program’s cancelation is shadowed by the recent announcement of Emerson’s China study-abroad program, which will send about 15 undergraduates to the Communications University of China for two to three weeks, starting in 2012. According to David Griffin, Emerson’s Director of International Study and External Programs, this is not a coincidence.

“It was decided that Emerson should put the resources it has into other international initiatives, for instance, strengthening our ties with our Chinese partner, Communication University of China,” Griffin said in an email.

Griffin, who said last year in a Beacon article, “I have no reason to see why we couldn’t continue to offer [the program],” said that the program was not in the plans of Emerson’s current administration. According to Griffin, Emerson may re-establish a program in London in the future, but there are no plans to revive last year’s program.

McDermott and other WLP students feel that Emerson’s opportunities to study abroad are unfairly weighted against them. McDermott said that because only the Kasteel Well program offers a relevant experience for WLP majors, the London program was very important to the major. Now, she said she may start a petition to show how many students are still interested in visiting London.

“I would just ask, how important is equality in the abroad program?” said McDermott. “It seems really strange to start another film and broadcasting program and to cancel this WLP program after just one year.  A lot of people are going to be disappointed.”