Students Surveyed on Calendar Change -dlh

Emily Gonzalez

On Monday, February 28, Dean of the Faculty Kathleen Murray sent an e-mail to all Lawrence students, encouraging them to complete a survey on the new academic calendar issue. The survey’s purpose was to gain students’ feedback on the calendar issue, one that has been discussed openly for the past several months. The new calendar itself has been debated and discussed for the past few years, however, and, as the academic year winds down, faculty and committee members are looking for student responses in order to make a proper recommendation at the faculty meeting in April.
As students may remember, a few months back the Calendar Task Force sent off the first proposed calendar, the 10-5-5-10 model, in order to inform members of the Lawrence community and encourage responses from them on their opinions of the schedule. According to the Calendar Task Force’s “mission statement,” they were to “investigate thoroughly the issues relevant to a consideration of term and semester calendars and to draft a recommendation on the calendar for consideration by the Curriculum Committee.”
Tom Ryckman, philosophy professor and chair of the task force, was on the first Curriculum Committee board when a new academic calendar was first seriously proposed in ’02-’03. “Many faculty members over the years had wanted terms to go to semesters,” said Ryckman, referring to one of the major issues with a new calendar. The faculty then had to approve the Curriculum Committee to look at the calendar, which then led to the Governance Committee appointing members to the Calendar Task Force.
Some of the large issues that first brought the new calendar into careful consideration were things like the midterm reading period and break time, as well as possibly more available class rooms with an added hour of MWF classes, two of the things mentioned by Ryckman during his address to the trustees on January 23, 2004. Ryckman discussed in particular: “the death march” *******– the academic time between New Years and after Memorial Day ********– “the late ending academic year, which challenges students looking for academic work, the late starting academic year in an athletic conference … three starts and stops to the schedule” as well as “being out of sync” with off-campus programs that are “geared towards” schools with semester-based calendars.
Ryckman also said that still, he did not imply that our current term calendar does not also have a “host of attractive features,” and that even with a possible major change in academic calendars, the main rule ********– also reiterated in the recent survey sent out to students *********– is that “the academic integrity of the institution must not be diminished.”
After these issues were brought up, the Calendar Task Force then sent out their informational e-mail this past year, with the Curriculum Committee finally taking over the issue late last year. This April, the committee will present the calendar to the faculty at their spring meeting, since it is “charged with bringing a recommendation to the faculty,” as Murray wrote.
The process will continue by most likely having more than one round in deciding the issue **********– due to the “two reading rule” in which the committee and faculty members reconsider and revote on an issue two to three times ********– particularly if a major action on the calendar is taken. Although the exact length of the decision-making process is still uncertain, the new calendar *******– no matter how radically changed ********– will most likely not take effect until two or three years from now. The models that the committee has been proposing and sending to students are examples of how the calendars would affect students’ and faculty members’ schedules.
The months and even years of planning for the new calendar led up to the survey sent off this past Monday to the Lawrence community, which in Murray’s words, addressed “some basic issues related to the calendar issue.” Though the survey takes a few minutes, it is easy to complete and asks for students’ feedback on a number of issues.
This includes students’ rankings of certain topics related to the calendar, such as the length of terms and the reading period, more class time (70-110 minutes more), as well as on avoiding long breaks in between and ensuring the ability to go off campus. The survey then explains the different calendars offered ********– the current term schedule, “End 1 week early,” “Long winter break,” “Split winter,” and the 10-5-5-10 calendar, arguably the most radically different model.
Each model has its own advantages and disadvantages ********– such as the possibly disruptive break time with the 10-5-5-10 model *********– but the most important thing for students to do is evaluate each calendar and decide what would work best in the coming years.
If one of the new calendar models is chosen, the faculty and committee will have to make “a judgment on how difficult the transition will be and determine the length of time it will take to make the change,” said Ryckman. However, though the Curriculum Committee, faculty and trustees all contribute greatly to whether a calendar passes or not, Lawrence students still have a large say in the matter, hence the recent survey.
“[The committee and faculty] would not make a decision like this without reflecting carefully on what students desire as well,” Ryckman added, mainly because the faculty and students work together, and the issue would affect us all.