Faculty consider new academic calendar proposals

Matthew Choi, Campus Editor

In an effort to combat student stress and other concerns about the quarter system, several academic calendar changes were proposed at Faculty Senate last month.

The Educational Affairs Committee proposed moving back start dates for the school year and lengthening breaks at the Dec. 7 Senate meeting. It also proposed lengthening time between classes from 10 minutes to 15 minutes. The different proposals were presented as options for departments to individually consider, and the committee will compile a singular proposal based on their responses later in the year.

The “10-5-5-10” proposal, created by last year’s Faculty Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience, was met with resistance from several academic departments during Senate due to planning challenges, said Baron Reed, chair of the Educational Affairs Committee. An October Faculty Senate report showed that only one department was in favor of the proposal.

One of the proposed changes included moving Fall Quarter earlier by either one or two weeks to allow a longer break between Winter and Fall quarters. An earlier start date would allow students to more easily meet job recruiters and allow more time for international students to travel between campus and home, according to a report the Educational Affairs Committee presented at Senate.

The committee also proposed removing a week from each quarter and adding five minutes between classes. The principle motivation for all of the changes is to improve students’ mental health, Reed said.

“The major aim here for all the calendar change proposals has been to try to address student stress levels,” Reed said. “Some people felt that addressing calendar is one way to do that because the quarter system is very fast paced, and it can be challenging.”

Efforts to edit the academic calendar were also prompted by concerns about the difficulty for students to find internships and jobs and in competing with students from schools with a semester calendar, professor of neurobiology Indira Raman, who chaired last year’s faculty task force, wrote in an email to The Daily.

“The (Faculty Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience) tried to think of changes that would preserve the good parts of the calendar … while addressing the problems,” Raman wrote. “The idea that addressed the points identified as problems was the 10-5-5-10 option, but many faculty members were not enthusiastic about this proposal.”

Faculty Senate collaborated with multiple organizations, including Counselling and Psychological Services and Associated Student Government, when determining new proposals for the academic calendar.

Ashley Wood, vice president for academics for ASG, said her priority was to make workloads more manageable while still maintaining the benefits of the quarter system. Many students still see advantages to the quarter system because of the opportunities to take more classes.

“One of the greatest benefits of Northwestern’s quarter system is the flexibility to be able to pursue something different or take some time to (try something new),” Wood said. “It’s just important not to increase the workload that students have.”

Alan Perez contributed reporting.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Prof. Indira Raman’s affiliation. Raman is a professor of neurobiology. The Daily regrets the error.

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