Ditching dead days

Students may be saying goodbye to their three-day weekends and dead days, while saying hello to a longer winter break, if University President John D. Welty signs a proposal to change the academic calendar.

Cutting some of the three-day weekends will benefit teachers, said Michael Botwin, Ph. D., psychology professor and chair of the Academic Senate. Teachers are having trouble juggling the increasing difference in instructional hours between their Monday/Wednesday classes and their Tuesday/Thursday classes. This semester alone, Monday/Wednesday classes had five less instructional days than Tuesday/Thursdays, almost an entire additional week off.

“I feel like I’m not serving my students,” Botwin said regarding the disparity.

The proposal was created by a part of the Academic Senate called the Academic Planning and Policies Committee. Fred Schreiber, chair of the committee, said that he felt the semester was getting too long.

Since the number of instructional days is mandated by the state government, adding days off during the break means removing days off from somewhere else. And because of the government, certain holidays must be celebrated, such as Labor Day and Memorial Day, the committee is limited in what they can move.

Therefore, in order to get a full week, they decided to eliminate dead days and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, as well as the three-day weekends that they could cut, such as Presidents Day.

The committee, which works separately from the Academic Senate when it comes to changing the calendar, has already approved these changes, and the proposal currently sits on Welty’s desk, awaiting his final decision.

This is one of the main criticisms many members of Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) has with the proposed changes – that the process does not leave room for students to comment. In their April 3 meeting, ASI voted unanimously to take a stance against all changes to the academic calendar.

ASI Chief of Staff Josh McDonald, President Juan Pablo Moncayo and Senator of Athletic Affairs Mackee Mason have all been working to solicit student input about the calendar changes.

“If these changes are to be seriously considered,” McDonald said, “the university’s administration owes it to students to conduct several campus forums soliciting student input.”

McDonald has offered to have ASI host the forums. Mason has been working with a variety of student volunteers – some in ASI, some not – to collect signatures on a petition asking to keep the academic calendar the way it is.

Schreiber said that they had made an effort to solicit student response, but did not get much reaction to the issue.

In contrast, a survey that Moncayo posted on ASI’s Facebook group got 50 responses. For the most part, students were against eliminating dead days. However, some proposed compromises.

“I think the best option would be to eliminate ONE of the dead days. It is hard to efficiently use both days anyway,” wrote one student.

“A better idea would be to start classes a week early or at the beginning of the week instead of the middle,” wrote another.

Moncayo has met with Welty and given him the student petitions and told him ASI’s official stance on the issue.

If Welty chooses to go ahead with the changes, students won’t see them on the calendar until fall 2009.

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