SF State's newly-resurrected Experimental College not being acknowledged by administration

SFSU experimental college
Students enrolled in the student-run Student Activism Course take a yoga and stretch break during their class, Feb 8. Photo by Sam Battles.

Will Nelson and Kelly Corwin are not college teachers. They have long, sunny blonde hair draping their shoulders; they wear tattered jeans and sneakers. However, every Wednesday night for two hours in HSS 201, these SF State students are teachers to roughly 20 students.

Nelson, 22, and Corwin, 25, teach a Student Activism course, which explores social movements through comparative analysis, and for which some of the students are getting course credit.

The pair are working through the Experimental College, which was established in 1966 by the Black Student Union and Third World Liberation Front in protest of racial discrimination and lack of ethnic-centered curriculum. However, despite the support of some faculty, the administration is not backing the college’s courses.

In order to get course credit for their class, Nelson and Corwin tell the students to fill out 699 independent study petition forms, which require the signature of a faculty member.

In an email sent Feb. 9 to deans of the six colleges, SF State provost Sue Rosser outlined the Experimental College as inappropriate use of an independent study course. Rosser also reminded faculty members that students can’t teach courses without faculty present, nor determine final grades for other students.

“We created a course curriculum, a full syllabus and requirements. So it was very easy to get teachers to say, ‘Well this is obviously very well thought out,’” Nelson said. “Them signing off is them approving of your course so they shouldn’t sign off if they have questions or are hesitant.”

According to the policies for 699 independent study courses, students are to do intensive research under the supervision of their selected advisers. The Experimental College tells students seek out their own professors to sign off on the form. Prior to Rosser’s email, Nelson and Corwin had already garnered support from a professor, who was not present in the Feb. 8 class. This goes against university policy for independent study.