Task force to evaluate split term

Jonathan Isaacson

While the semester calendar might not be the recommendation that the calendar task force makes to the curriculum committee, the possibility of semesters is not dead yet.Jeff Clark, professor of geology and a member of the calendar task force, emphasized that the final decision on changing Lawrence’s calendar will be made by the curriculum committee and ultimately by a faculty vote, not by the task force. However, he did say that the task force has decided not to recommend a switch to a semester calendar and will now turn its attention to the possibility of a modified term calendar.

Earlier this year, faculty members attended workshops to look at possible alternatives to the current late-September to mid-June term system the school currently uses. The workshops highlighted two possible new term calendar arrangements and two possible semester arrangements.

According to Clark, for the semester options, faculty members considered a standard two 14-week semesters calendar and a two 13-week semester plus one two-and-a-half week May term calendar. The May term option seemed to be the more popular option of the two, and the task force set to work second term investigating the feasibility of this option. After tweaking the potential calendar to fit Lawrence’s needs, the task force sent out a proposal to faculty and solicited feedback.

The feedback led the task force to the conclusion that semesters did not seem like a viable fit for Lawrence at present. Clark noted that two main issues influenced the conclusion. “Many programs noted that they wouldn’t be able to offer as many classes,” he said. The other issue that was seen as a barrier was the lack of availability of large classrooms for the expected increased enrollment in introductory classes that the semester calendar would entail. While the task force has ceased to consider the semester calendar, the budget office will still calculate the projected costs of switching to and operating on a semester calendar, for inclusion in the final report to be submitted to the curriculum committee.

Now that the task force has left the issue of semesters behind, they will begin to look at new term calendars. In particular, the task force will be working on developing a split winter term calendar, similar to the one used at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. The calendar would shift the start of the school year so that the first term break would fall several weeks earlier than it currently does. Because of the shift, second term would be split by the winter break.

The other option, which did not seem to garner as much support, was a calendar similar to Carleton College’s (Northfield, Minn.), wherein the school year would start several weeks earlier, but winter break would extend from Thanksgiving until after New Year’s Day. Students will have a chance to find out more about the options and give their input at a meeting scheduled for May 13.

While the task force is trying to find the calendar that would be advantageous for the majority of Lawrentians, Clark noted that nothing is perfect. “There’s no perfect calendar. Every calendar is going to have a series of trade-offs.