Students, faculty split over proposed academic calendar

Erica Snow, Reporter

Students and faculty remain divided about the new quarter system timeline recommended by a task force’s findings released on Tuesday.

The “10-5-5-10” calendar, which would split Winter Quarter into two five-week sessions separated by a ten to 14-day winter break, was proposed on Monday by the 2015 Faculty Task Force on the Undergraduate Academic Experience. The shift would have classes start in late August and end in late May. Half-credit courses, called Common Experience classes, could be taught in five weeks to serve students from multiple schools, and 15-week extended sessions would be available for some classes.

Provost Daniel Linzer said a longer “five plus 10” session could offer more continuity and a chance to study a course in-depth. Although the concerns of the proposed schedule are valid, he said, the new schedule could ultimately offer more flexibility.

“I think that the modifications … address a lot of things that people have commented on over the years as concerns with our calendar,” Linzer said. “We’re out of sync with most of the rest of higher education, which puts students at a disadvantage.”

Shifting the calendar to end before June 1 could benefit students seeking summer internships and opportunities that previously couldn’t be pursued, said economics Prof. Mark Witte. However, he said he strongly supports the current quarter system. Teaching core classes or classes in sequences could be more difficult with 5-week sessions, he said, despite the possibility of longer classes.

“I think there’s a real benefit of standardization,” Witte said. “A course we teach in the fall, we could also teach in the spring. It’s good for students and it’s good for us. If we had a 10-week, five-week and 15-week, that would just be madness.”

McCormick sophomore Luke McDougald said the proposed system would make fulfilling rigid course requirements in McCormick difficult.

“If you try to take a class that is an extended length class … your original flexibility of the quarter system disappears,” McDougald said. “My primary concern is going from a system where we fully support the quarter system to one where the winter quarter is split in half.”

Also outlined in the task report is a two-week spring break to provide a longer rest between Winter and Spring Quarters. However, winter break could be reduced from three weeks to two weeks.

SESP senior Yair Sakols — who authored an ASG report last March to request Weinberg’s graduation requirement to be lowered from 45 to 42 credits — said unless the University does something to reduce the course load during the school year, a longer spring break may not solve everything.

“In my mind, what you would have is a longer break between two really, really hard and stressful and emotionally difficult quarters,” Sakols said. “You put a bandaid by making spring break longer, but you don’t really address the issue of the quarters being incredibly stressful.”

In addition, the new schedule brings concerns about changing majors and the wait to take relevant classes, Witte said.

“I’m a big fan of keeping standard units because otherwise it gets very hard to construct a program and then it gets very hard for students who need to adjust their schedule,” Witte said. “I worry about things like that.”

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