The Daily Northwestern

Proposed ‘10-5-5-10’ calendar change stalls with lack of faculty support

Benjamin Din, Digital Projects Editor

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Faculty members are overwhelmingly against the proposed “10-5-5-10” calendar change, Faculty Senate president Ed Hughes said, slowing the progress of potential changes to the quarter system.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Faculty Senate, the Kellogg professor said 15 departments had submitted reports related to the recommendations made in the January findings of the 2015 Faculty Task Force on the Undergraduate Academic Experience. The reports were an “unequivocal rejection” of the proposed academic calendar, he said.

In a Friday meeting with University President Morton Schapiro, Hughes said Schapiro promised the Senate Executive Committee he would not go against faculty members’ wishes, effectively putting a halt to the calendar change recommendation.

“The president issued a very significant statement: ‘We won’t do anything against the will of the faculty,’” Hughes said of the meeting. “This is a major, major breakthrough.”

Hughes said prior to meeting with Schapiro, it seemed as if the calendar change was the direction the University was headed in. However, things have now changed with the faculty’s widespread displeasure with the recommendation, something he said Schapiro acknowledged in a separate staff meeting.

University spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment after the meeting.

Religious studies Prof. Laurie Zoloth, the Senate vice president and the Senate representative to the task force, said feedback from faculty has caused her to change her mind about certain proposals the task force put forth.

“I have to say it’s a very humbling experience to have such great ideas and then find out they’re wrong,” she said. “We made some mistakes. We hadn’t thought through some of our exciting ideas, and they’re more exciting than they are practical.”

The faculty discussed potential alternatives to the calendar change, including extending lectures by 10 minutes, which would increase instruction time and shorten the length of a quarter.

Preliminary survey data presented at the meeting indicated faculty were not interested in teaching a five-week course, a sentiment Spanish and Portuguese Prof. Heather Colburn echoed to The Daily. Colburn, who teaches only undergraduates, said her department has had a variety of concerns with the calendar change, but one main concern really stood out.

“At the heart of our response was that we are concerned that the calendar switch might actually exacerbate student stress levels rather than alleviate them,” she told The Daily. “Our primary concern is always really around our students.”

Keeping the quarter system as is would allow students to go through a collective undergraduate experience, she said. Assessment would also be uniform, so some students wouldn’t have to deal with having to take a final for a class while trying to juggle other assignments, she said.

“The entire undergraduate community is going through the same rituals and experiences of undergraduate life at the same pace or at the same time,” Colburn said.

However, Weinberg senior Riko Ohashi, the Associated Student Government vice president for academics and a member of the task force, told The Daily faculty may have been too quick to make their decisions and should give serious consideration to why students would want to propose such a change.

Ultimately, faculty support is key to pushing forward a substantial change to the calendar, Ohashi said.

“All of the really big academic changes at our university comes from faculty,” she said. “If we want the faculty to do something but if they’re not willing to do it, then it just doesn’t happen.”

Instead of dropping the issue, Ohashi said it is important to continue the discussion and see what the best way is to implement such a change.

Although the proposed calendar has been the most widely discussed recommendation from the report, Zoloth said it is important to take a thoughtful look at the other recommendations that were made, including reducing the number of credits required to graduate and increasing the number of staffers at Counseling and Psychological Services.

As for a potential change in the calendar, Zoloth agreed with Ohashi, and said this was not the end of the issue.

“Discussion has to continue because we keep hearing other ways to address the problem of getting out earlier, having a later start,” Zoloth told The Daily. “The task force is just the beginning of a discussion.”

Email: benjamindin@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @benjamindin

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