After this January, Weber State University students might never start classes the day after News Year’s Day again.
The faculty senate voted by an overwhelming majority to recommend a new academic calendar Thursday, which, if approved by WSU administrators and its Board of Regents, would push the start of school back two weeks for both the fall and spring semesters beginning in fall 2012. A handful of faculty said no to the new calendar, deemed Option C, in favor of two other proposals, which would eliminate Spring Break.
“Option C was a clear choice for the majority of the faculty,” said Colleen Garside, chair of faculty senate. “It keeps Spring Break in the mix. It gives us a week to kind of get things together. I think that’s important really for students, because if you’re getting your books, that means you’ve got to get them almost before Christmas. I just think it’s more student-friendly.”
The new calender would include several changes to the current one. Fall classes would start the first full week of September after Labor Day instead of the last week of August, and spring classes would start mid-week in the second full week of January instead of the first day of the first week of January.
“I think one (issue) that (faculty) tend to agree on is the after-New-Year’s thing,” said Chris Hoagstrom, an assistant professor of zoology and member of the faculty senate. “If you travel somewhere to be with family or whatnot, it’s kinda hard to enjoy New Year’s if you have to be right back.”
One faculty senate member in the family studies department, Jim Bird, disagreed that a restructuring of vacation time was a viable reason to vote for Calendar C.
“There is no educational component to this calendar change,” Bird said. “We’re doing it for vacation. That’s all we’re doing it for. It’s not like someone said, ‘Hey, by extending five minutes a day students are going to learn more.’ No. It’s all about vacation. It’s about (how) the faculty do not want to come back right after New Year’s.”
With the start time being pushed back, fall finals would be the second full week of December instead of the first, and spring finals would be the last full week in April instead of the third. There would still be a week-long Spring Break in March. Additionally, each session of a three-day-a-week class would be extended from 50 minutes to 55.
The new calendar would actually slightly increase the number of class-time minutes for each credit hour, but would cut the days of instruction by six in the fall and three in the spring. It will also increase the number of break days between the fall, spring and summer semesters by seven days. However, Bird said he doesn’t believe instructors will adjust their syllabi to accommodate an extra five minutes of instruction.
Bird said the changes will be difficult to adjust to for a minority of classes, which he said need the current amount of days for the course material to be successfully taught.
“When you have to teach a skill set, you have to have the days,” Bird said. “When I lose days, it takes away time when students can go down to the children’s school and actually work with children. I don’t extend the lab down there for 20 more minutes a day. So I’m losing days to teach students.”
Bird said it’s already difficult for teachers in child and family studies to get the time they need with their classes to work with children at the children’s school.
“We already have trouble getting our teachers quality time in the children’s school,” Bird said.
Cutting the days of instruction will also cut the number of days the children’s school can charge parents for day care, Bird said. Bird said administration has promised to cut the lag in revenue if Calendar C is adopted. Bird also said he doubts the state legislature will support the changes.
“I would like to see President Millner go up to the state legislature and say, ‘We are giving faculty more time and taking away days of education because faculty need time to visit their family,’” Bird said.
Despite Bird’s concerns, a release from faculty senate affirms there are other compelling reasons for the change, although it listed vacations as the first. According to the release, the increased number of break days is to give faculty more time for vacations, submitting grades, study-abroad trips, faculty research, disseminating financial aid, academic advising and finalizing registration.
“There’s always going to be pros and cons against any calendar,” Garside said. “I think there were some good issues that were brought up. I think most of them were addressed.”
Garside said she believes the overwhelming support for the calendar change will be acknowledged by the administration.
“I think they’ll listen, because that was one of the reasons why this went on for so long (four years), and we wanted to be sure everybody had an opportunity,” Garside said. “I think the administration will probably be supportive of what the faculty senate recommended.”