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Editorial: The value in opening a winter session

Through the long-standing arrangement between Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design, students have the opportunity to take courses at either of the Providence schools. This option opens RISD’s creative prowess to Brown and Brown’s range of departments to RISD. Unfortunately, the difficulty of figuring out a schedule across both programs may close some doors for interested students.

To begin, Brown and RISD do not follow the same academic calendar. RISD’s spring semester tends to start and end two weeks after ours. As a result, Brown students living in dorms often face housing problems at the end of the semester. Within a given week, the schedules also face compatibility issues. RISD’s 5-hour-long studio classes are a logistical nightmare for a student with a mostly Brown schedule. Moreover, simply planning courses into a schedule is a challenge as the RISD course catalog provides detailed descriptions of listings and instructors, yet no days and times for the courses. Brown students have to email RISD’s registrar, professors or students to find out more.

Brown lecture courses can rather easily accommodate extra students and seminars — especially in Engineering, Visual Art and History of Art and Architecture — are relatively easy for RISD students to access. But because classroom and studio space are so limited at RISD, highly specialized and capped courses are largely unavailable to Brown students.

There is one way around the scheduling, paperwork and logistics obstacles students face: winter session.

Winter session — a condensed semester — offers RISD students a respite from their typically arduous routines. The six-week-long program allows for a change of pace: Students enroll in one or two classes, some in the form of workshops or travel courses — all suited to the shorter timeframe. Winter session can also give Brown students the chance to hone their artistic skill set without the additional stress associated with the usual academic rigor of a Brown education. The additional free time encourages deeper creative expression and provides the opportunity for students to take up winter internships. As winter session courses count as a full spring semester course, students looking to take five classes can get one out of the way before the second week of February, making the rest of the semester more manageable.

Registration for winter session takes place in mid-November, and passes largely unknown on Brown’s campus. The suggested method of emailing or meeting with the RISD instructor is a tedious task to undertake among midterms and finals preparation, and with no guarantee of a slot, it can be difficult to find the motivation to make the effort. This situation is even more challenging for international students, who face the same problems but with greater financial repercussions given that they may need to book long flights during the peak holiday season.

We feel lucky to have these opportunities, but they are only valuable if students actually take advantage of them. Rather than blame one registrar or the other, we ask that there be greater transparency in the Brown-RISD cross-registration. Spring schedules may be difficult to synchronize, but the benefits of winter session could be more effectively harnessed by Brown students through more dialogue and coordination between the two schools and their student bodies.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Manuel Monti-Nussbaum ’15, Katherine Pollock ’16 and Himani Sood ’15. Send comments to


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