By Sam Weinberg
Within the first few weeks of my arrival at St. John’s, I began to see signs for the alliterative, and now defunct “Americans in Autumn” series presented by a body that called itself the S.C.I. (the “Student Committee on Instruction”). Around the same time, additional flyers began to appear that advertised the not-so-alliterative “Shakespeare in the Fall.” “What are these seminars? Who is the S.C.I.?” I asked myself at the time.
I was soon to find out that the S.C.I. is an elected body of students that, besides putting on extra-curricular seminars, also holds weekly forums every Thursday at lunch to discuss all matters related to the Program. Being as I was an intrigued and wide-eyed freshman, I began attending both the seminars and the forums on a regular basis. I thought then, as I do to this day, that the service that the S.C.I. gives to the Polity is an invaluable one; one which has made my experience at St. John’s much richer. The S.C.I. affords students opportunities to discuss and, in turn, learn about the program of study in which they are so deeply engaged. One can attend an S.C.I. forum on first semester freshman lab and voice frustrations about the pace of the Driesch readings, or ask a question that will yield a better understanding of certain decisions made about the order of the readings, how the curriculum has changed over time, etc. These weekly forums are often frequented by tutors who are able to provide keen insight into things from the other side, but are just as often there to learn about the students’ perspective on the academic work at the College.
The S.C.I. secretary—an office that I will be occupying in the forthcoming year—records the minutes of the meetings, which serve as a record of all that was said throughout, and then has them published in the Gadfly. Even if one cannot attend a forum for whatever reason, one can still read what was said in the forum by turning one’s eyes to the minutes in the Gadfly.
I want to make a claim that to me seems irrefutable: the S.C.I., more than most other things on campus, is most reflective of the ethos of the Program and the distinctness of the St. John’s Polity. Where else would you find students who will voluntarily attend another seminar, which will require reading an entire off-Program Shakespeare play or an entire Platonic dialogue? Where else would you find students who will voluntarily spend their lunch period having a serious discussion about the pedagogical underpinnings of their program of study? The fact that both the S.C.I. forums and extra-curricular seminars are so well attended and well regarded is indicative of the fact that it occupies a central role at the school—a role that continues to bear fruit.
Look for advertisements for all things S.C.I. in the fall!