Faculty Senate discusses shortening quarters by one week


Noah Frick-Alofs/The Daily Northwestern

Purdue University Prof. David Sanders, chair of the school’s Faculty Senate, speaks at Faculty Senate on Wednesday. Sanders encouraged senators to continue their work at Northwestern.

Kelli Nguyen, Development and Recruitment Editor

Faculty Senate discussed shortening each quarter by one week at its meeting Wednesday as an alternative to the so-called “10-5-5-10” calendar, which a Senate report released last month found many departments oppose.

Under the “10-5-5-10” calendar, Northwestern 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.

“The data shows that our schedule has significant disadvantages,” said religious studies Prof. Laurie Zoloth, president of Faculty Senate. “Not only for internships but actual jobs for people that need to work, for fellowship deadlines in the fall. The faculty were complaining about the very late ending in June.”

During the meeting Wednesday, Zoloth presented potential changes to the academic calendar. Every quarter would be one week shorter with three weeks shaved off the entire academic year. If classes started a week earlier in the fall, the quarter could end by Thanksgiving, allowing for a longer winter break. The shortened Winter and Spring Quarters would allow for a longer Spring Break or an earlier finals week during Spring Quarter.

“We wanted to address the fact that we can make life better,” Zoloth said. “That’s the intent of a senate — making life better for the academic community and for the faculty and of course for the students as well.”

Wednesday’s proposal suggests maintaining the same number of class minutes per quarter, but spread out over 8.33 weeks, Zoloth said. Classes offered three times per week would become 60-minute sessions rather than the current 50-minute sessions. The remaining two days in the ninth week of the quarter would serve as a University-wide reading period, followed by finals during week 10. Quarters with nine weeks of instruction would be shortened to 7.33 weeks under the proposal.

The proposed schedule would allow for more time with family and more time to travel, Zoloth said. Beginning and ending the academic year earlier would bring the University’s schedule closer to peer institutions and would allow for students to start jobs and internships earlier, she said.

Philosophy Prof. Baron Reed, chair of Faculty Senate’s Educational Affairs committee, said the proposed idea has drawbacks as well. He said shortening quarters would lead to faster-paced quarters with fewer, but longer, classes. The schedule also raises concerns for work study, extracurriculars and athletics, Reed said.

“The real concern is whether this is going to be something that will increase student stress rather than lower it,” he said.

Zoloth said the specifics of the proposed calendar changes would need to be worked out. The proposal is still being developed, and the Educational Affairs committee is open to changes or the preservation of the current calendar, Reed said.

“You have to move forward in some direction, and every direction is going to have some gains and some losses,” Zoloth said.

Prior to discussions about changing the academic calendar, Purdue University Prof. David Sanders, chair of the school’s Faculty Senate, spoke about the power of faculty senates to facilitate change and keep administrators in check.

The meeting continued with updates from eight other Faculty Senate subcommittees, including an update on non-tenure eligible faculty.

The vote on whether or not to unionize non-tenure-eligible faculty conducted last spring is still under review by the National Labor Relations Board. Spanish Prof. Heather Colburn, chair of the Non-tenure Eligible committee, said the committee is working to clarify the definition of non-tenure-eligible faculty and continuing discussion on academic freedom.

“We will continue to work to educate ourselves and the Northwestern community and more broadly about NTE faculty and related issues,” Colburn said. “We’re still in limbo because of the unionization vote.”

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