Faculty Senate report shows many departments oppose 10-5-5-10 calendar

Peter Kotecki, Campus Editor

A Faculty Senate report released in September showed that many departments at Northwestern do not support the so-called “10-5-5-10” calendar, a proposal that would move the beginning of the academic year to August.

In a University report released in January, a task force proposed NU begin the academic year five weeks earlier, while still maintaining the quarter system. Under the proposed “10-5-5-10” calendar, NU would begin classes in late August and end in late May. Winter Quarter would become two five-week sessions, split by a winter break without assignments.

Of the 74 departments represented in Faculty Senate, 33 responded to a poll about the recommendations. The Senate’s educational affairs committee compiled the poll responses and reported that 23 departments that participated in the poll opposed the proposed calendar. Only one department was in favor, and in nine departments, faculty were split on the issue.

The task force presented its recommendations to Provost Dan Linzer last Winter Quarter. The Faculty Senate report was dated July 28, but Joshua Mayer, administrative coordinator for Faculty Senate, told The Daily the report was posted online Sept. 16.

Earth and Planetary Sciences Prof. Suzan van der Lee, a member of Faculty Senate, said 13 faculty in her department gave feedback about the proposal. Six opposed the recommendation, four were in favor and three were undecided, she said.

Van der Lee said some of her colleagues were concerned with the proposed change because of an Earth and Planetary Sciences course that is taught off-campus for two to three weeks prior to Fall Quarter. The 10-5-5-10 calendar would not allow the course to be offered, she said.

Feedback from faculty in the Earth and Planetary Sciences department was similar to reactions from at least a dozen other departments, Van der Lee said.

“I feel (the Senate) rejected the calendar idea based on insufficient information and insufficient exploration of the implementation,” she told The Daily in an email. “I have heard valid arguments for and against … but there are also arguments that puzzle me, for example that having a long break between two 5-week blocks of a course would be detrimental to learning.”

On the other hand, she said, the “10-5-5-10” calendar would help students and faculty in her department who go on a field trip during Spring Break. The break is currently too short and does not allow students to rest before returning to campus for Spring Quarter, she said. She added that she’d like to hear from more students about the proposal.

Departments commented on other recommendations in the task force’s report as well. Fourteen opposed a recommendation to limit homework to 10 hours per week per credit. Only one department in Weinberg was in favor of the recommendation.

Religious Studies Prof. Laurie Zoloth, president of Faculty Senate, said the educational affairs and student affairs committees will further discuss the recommendations made by the task force.

“Both the Senate and the administration are committed to carefully listening to suggestions, objections and good ideas,” Zoloth told The Daily in an email. “We can build on the good ideas of the task force, and learn from ideas that did not gain support as we move forward.”

Zoloth, who served on the the task force, said she supported many of the task force recommendations. Zoloth said she particularly liked the recommendations to improve the residential college system, enhance Counseling and Psychological Services and find “creative ways to honor the work of teaching.”

“We have listened carefully to the thoughtful responses of colleagues who did not like the calendar changes or the idea of 5 week sessions and have learned from these responses,” she told The Daily in an email.

Zoloth said “open and transparent discourse” will be important in clarifying arguments for the proposed changes.

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Twitter: @peterkotecki

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